November 12

Independent vs Assisted Living: How to Get Help with Essentials as You Age


Making decisions about where to live as you age can be challenging. You want to stay at home, but moving to a senior living community might be a better option for you in the long run.

Leaving your home may seem scary — and probably wasn't what you had in mind when you were younger. You probably never imagined a life where you had little-to-no family support and were struggling with daily living.

Choosing the right place to call home can have a major impact on your overall happiness and quality of life. Independent and assisted living both offer different options for you that may (or may not) suit you best. Let us help you learn what you need to know to make the right choice.

Independent vs Assisted Living:
Which One Should You Choose?

If you’re researching independent or assisted living communities, it can be pretty confusing to understand the difference between the two. The level of care and assistance you need with ADLs (activities of daily living) can be a determining factor. 

You might be struggling with daily tasks like preparing meals or you might simply prefer to enjoy retirement without the hassles of maintaining a home.

The amenities and services offered can vary greatly depending on the type of community you choose, so make sure you read the paperwork carefully on what’s included. Continue reading our article below for an overview of independent and assisted living, as well as a side-by-side comparison of the two.

What is Independent Living?

Independent living is for seniors who want to enjoy the freedoms of living in their own home without the hassle of having to maintain a house.

Most independent living communities include yard maintenance, repairs, and utilities in the initial cost. You don’t have to worry about yard work, costly repairs, paying utilities, or saving up for property taxes. 

Assistance with preparing meals, laundry, transportation, or housekeeping services may be made available to residents for an additional fee at some communities.

Host Family and Friends in Your Own Space

Do you still like to entertain family and friends in the comfort of your own home? Certain communities can accommodate cooking by providing a fully stocked kitchen with a sink,  oven/stove, a full size fridge with freezer, microwave, or other appliances.

Other communities might only provide a small kitchenette with a mini-fridge and sink. If a personal kitchen isn’t provided, or cooking a large meal isn’t feasible, the facility may provide access to a community building with a kitchen and dining area you can utilize.

Make New Friends

Don’t have access to family or friends close by? The majority of these communities offer a wide range of activities to enjoy with the other residents. You can find new opportunities to spend time with like-minded individuals who share similar interests whenever you feel the need to be social.

Additional Assistance

If you require more assistance than the community provides, you may need to consider hiring a 3rd party caregiver or having family assist you as needed. 

Independent living communities are ideal for someone who needs little to no assistance with ADLs. How do you know if this is you? Keep reading to find out if an assisted living community might be a better fit.

Do I Need Assisted Living?

The biggest difference between independent and assisted living is the level of care offered to residents. Most independent communities will offer assistance with the basics like preparing meals and housekeeping, but if you require more specialized care than that, you might want to consider an assisted living community instead.

If you struggle with any of the following activities, assisted living could be a better fit for you.

  • It’s getting harder for you to prepare meals on your own. Meal planning, grocery shopping, prepping food, cooking, and cleaning up the mess after has become too much of a pain or too difficult to handle.
  • Dusting and picking up is a thing of the past. It’s hard to reach high and low places and you are worried about a fall or other injury. 
  • You find yourself dreading bath time and you have been avoiding the shower. Sponge baths or sink bathing is now the norm.
  • Lugging around loads of laundry and getting dressed is not as easy as it once was. You have been skipping laundry days and wearing your clothes longer to avoid the hassle. 
  • You are having difficulty concentrating or maintaining focus.
  • Medication isn’t being taken at the right times. You find yourself unable to remember when you took it last.
  • You can’t drive or shouldn’t be driving.
  • You have a chronic or serious medical condition.

Independent vs Assisted Living: A Side by Side Comparison

Determining which community is a better fit can be a difficult choice to make. For more information about the differences between an independent and assisted living community, check out the side by side comparison below.


Independent Living

Assisted Living


Cottage, townhome, apartment, condo, etc.

Apartment-style living with or without a kitchen, small living area, and private bath. Depending on the level of care required, they can be private or semi-private.

Yard Maintenance and Utilities

Usually included in the initial cost.

Included in the initial cost.

Meal Preparation Services

Sometimes offered for an additional fee or may include one meal per day with access to more meals per day for an additional fee.

Included in the initial cost.

Housekeeping Services

Sometimes offered for an additional fee, but the majority include weekly or monthly services.

Included in the initial cost.

Caregiving Services

Supplemental care would be an additional cost and would need to be provided by a 3rd party.

Included in the initial cost.

Medication Management

This would need to be handled by yourself or a 3rd party.

Included in the initial cost. Cost varies depending on the number of medications you are taking.

Medical Personnel on Staff

Might not be provided.

On-site or on-call at all times.

Assistance with ADLs

Supplemental care would be an additional cost and would need to be provided by a 3rd party.

Included in the initial cost.

Transportation Services (Doctor Appointments and Errands)

Might be included or offered for an additional fee.

Included in the initial cost.

Entertainment and Social Activities

Offered to all residents to enjoy at their leisure.

Scheduled daily to help keep residents entertained.

Average Cost

$1,500 and $10,000 per month according to Retirement Living

$3,700 per month according to Retirement Living

Paying for an Independent or Assisted Living Community

A common misconception is that the cost of independent or assisted living communities will be covered by Medicare. You will be responsible for paying the fee at an independent living community yourself — however, in some cases, government assistance is available for low-income seniors.

Assisted living communities are not much different. Medicare and Medicaid might offer some assistance, but don't expect them to cover the bulk of the cost.  If you have purchased long-term care insurance or receive Veteran’s benefits, those may help with the financial burden. 

For more information about your payment options, check out this page on

Consult an Expert

Finding the perfect independent or assisted living community can be tough. 

Are you still unsure about which type of community would be a better fit for you? Maybe you have decided on the type but you don’t know what the options are for communities in your area. 

This is a lot of information for anyone to sift through. You might be feeling pretty overwhelmed and unsure if you’re making the right choices. 

Don’t cause yourself unnecessary stress! 

Talk to one of our experts today and let us help you make this tough decision. Request a Consultation today and put your mind at ease!

Request a Consultation

Life over 50 is complicated. From illnesses to general aging-related difficulties, there's a lot to learn and a lot to cope with. We understand and we're here to help answer questions and provide guidance on your options.

About the author

Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

President & CEO, Aging Life Care™ Manager

“I am dedicated to working with older adults and their families to maintain dignity and enhance their quality of life.”