Our Parents
Senior Health
Senior Living Options
Finances & Legal
Products for Seniors
About Us
A green banner with the OurParents logo

Your Guide to Independent Living

Written by Grace Styron
 about the author
9 minute readLast updated March 7, 2023

Independent living is a philosophy defined by a few key principles: choice, control, freedom, and equality. Independent senior living communities aim to embody that philosophy by supporting residents’ sense of independence and autonomy. They offer all residents a maintenance-free lifestyle, enriching amenities, an abundance of social opportunities, and the freedom to choose how they spend their time.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

What are independent living communities?

Independent living communities are complexes built and designed for adults — typically ages 55+ — who crave an active and independent lifestyle without responsibilities like housekeeping, lawn care, and home maintenance. They offer a quiet, hassle-free environment, often with appealing amenities and an attractive location.

Who is independent living for?

Independent living communities typically require residents to be mentally and physically capable of living alone, have no major health issues, and be at least 55 years old. It’s a suitable living option for generally healthy older adults who are looking to downsize or reduce the upkeep of their home. Independent living takes daily chores off one’s plate so they have more time to enjoy themselves and explore new interests, like learning a new craft or perfecting their cooking skills.
Be aware that independent living offers a range of supportive services, but it doesn’t provide personal care or medical care. Adults who require more advanced care may instead benefit from assisted living, nursing home care, or in-home care.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

What services and amenities does independent living provide?

An illustration of an older man and a list of services offered in independent living.
Most independent living communities provide their residents a range of convenient services and amenities to both enhance and simplify their daily lives. Services vary depending on the community, but common offerings can include the following:
  • Dining and meal services
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Home maintenance, such as repairs
  • Social events, activities, and group outings
  • Complimentary transportation
  • Concierge services
Likewise, when it comes to amenities, each independent living community offers its own unique flare. A luxury resort-style community may feature a sizable swimming pool and offer day trips to the beach, while a community in the Midwest might host nature walks and a birdwatching club.
Independent senior living amenities commonly include the following:
  • On-site spas, barber shops, or beauty salons
  • Movie theater
  • Game and activities room
  • Designated spaces for private events
  • Arts and crafts center
  • Community garden or courtyard
  • Swimming pool
  • Outdoor walking paths
  • On-site health clinic or pharmacy

What are the benefits of independent living services?

The services and amenities offered through independent living can provide older adults with opportunities to freely explore new hobbies, pursue long-lived passions, and lead a healthier lifestyle. The following are a few of many benefits of independent living services.

Convenient, maintenance-free living

Independent living communities provide each resident with practical services, such as home maintenance, landscaping, laundry, light housekeeping, and local transportation to medical appointments and grocery stores.

Enhanced nutrition and dining experiences

While residents are free to cook what they like in their own homes, independent living communities often employ a professional chef and full kitchen staff who prepare restaurant-style meals. Many even have a registered dietician on site to ensure menu options are nutritious and suitable for residents with dietary restrictions.

A focus on wellness and active living

Senior-focused wellness programs can help with their overall well-being, improve their quality of life, and foster meaningful relationships with peers. Independent living communities help residents make the most of their retirement years by offering holistic fitness and wellness programs, often including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual opportunities.

A blend of privacy and community

Residents are free to spend their time however they please. They have their own private living spaces — typically either an apartment-style unit or a single-family detached home — where they can relax on their own or host get-togethers with friends and neighbors. For residents pursuing an active senior lifestyle, communal spaces, fitness centers, activities rooms, outdoor spaces, and other amenities are conveniently located right in the community.

Recreation and social engagement

When we’re active and engaged, our lives tend to feel fuller and happier. Recreational and social activities tend to vary from place to place, but most independent living communities host fun events, off-site excursions, interest-based social clubs, and parties that appeal to an array of interests, tastes, and preferences. Many communities are pet-friendly and often offer pet therapy programs, pet-friendly social events, and dog parks where residents can meet up and bring their furry friends.

Safe and senior-friendly living

Both private and communal areas in independent living communities usually have accessibility features to cater to varying levels of physical ability. This might include a 24-hour security team, physical features like handrails in the bathrooms, and an emergency call button in each apartment.

Talk with a Senior Care Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

What’s the cost of independent living?

The monthly median cost of independent living and cost-related factors.
The average cost of independent living communities in 2021 was $2,843 per month, according to A Place for Mom proprietary data. Rates vary depending on things like the size and location of the community, the chosen floor plan, whether a resident lives with a roommate or significant other, and certain services or amenities offered. There may also be additional move-in fees or monthly, quarterly, or annual fees. To learn the actual cost of a given community, talk to a community agent or representative.

What’s included in the price of independent living?

Many — although not all — independent living communities are all-inclusive. This means the monthly base rent covers housing, utilities, meals, services, and amenities.
However, it’s not uncommon for a community to offer certain services or amenities, such as fitness classes or meal plans, for an additional fee. When comparing options, be sure to ask a community representative what fees are included and what fees will be added to the base rent.

How to pay for independent living

Because independent living doesn’t provide medical care or assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), like eating, grooming, and bathing, most forms of insurance like Medicare or Medicaid don’t cover independent living costs. Instead, the most common source of payment for independent living is personal funds, including savings from retirement accounts, investments, or any income from Social Security benefits. For those who aren’t able to pay out of pocket, there are still many other sources of financial support, including the following:
  • Assets. Many older adults use their assets, such as their vehicles, homes, or other real estate, to fund the transition to independent living. You can reach out to a real estate agent to discuss the option of selling your home and using the proceeds to pay for senior living. Alternatively, many seniors choose to retain their house after moving into a community and rent it out to another family. This can provide monthly income that can be used to cover the cost of independent living.
  • Housing assistance. Although they tend to have long waiting lists, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers programs such as public housing, rental assistance, and vouchers, that can help low-income seniors find safe and affordable living arrangements.
  • VA benefits. Eligible veterans may receive monthly VA pension payments that can be used at their discretion, including to cover housing, meals, and other expenses in independent living.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This option is available to seniors ages 65+ or individuals who are blind or disabled with limited income and assets. SSI benefit amounts are typically based on factors like the applicant’s income and living arrangements. The benefits can help cover the costs of basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter, which can include some costs of independent living. Visit the Social Security Administration’s website or contact your local social security office for more information on SSI benefits and eligibility.

What to look for in an independent living community

When looking for an independent living community, make sure the following factors align with your or your loved one’s individual values and interests:
  • Activities and amenities. Find out what activities are available and how often they occur. Most communities will have a public activities calendar, as well as a list of amenities available to residents and guests.
  • Dining options. Again, residents are welcome to cook their own meals at home. For those who prefer restaurant-style dining offered by the community, inquire about the menu options. Most communities should be able to accommodate residents who are vegan or vegetarian, have food allergies, or have other dietary preferences or restrictions. Some communities also offer room service, which can be a valuable option for residents with limited mobility.
  • Transportation options. New residents should consider whether they’ll bring their car with them or rely on the community’s transportation services. Find out where they offer rides and how often the service is available.
  • Specific housekeeping and maintenance services. What services are included and how often are they provided? Delegating time-intensive and disliked chores, such as doing laundry or taking out the trash, can free up time for more enjoyable pursuits.
  • Safety and accessibility features. Does the community have an on-site security team? Will wheelchair accessibility be needed in the home? What about accommodations for vision and/or hearing loss? Consider what security features are most important, and find a community that offers them.
  • Costs suited to your loved one’s budget. Talk with a community representative about upfront costs and any additional fees, and review payment options to ensure they can comfortably afford the community.

How can I find independent living near me?

Our Senior Care Advisors can simplify your search for independent living. Our advisors will help assess your aging parent’s needs and preferences to see if independent living is the right choice, identify financial resources that can cover costs of independent living, and connect you with local communities that fit their budget — all at absolutely no cost.


Meet the Author
Grace Styron

Grace Styron is a writer at OurParents specializing in assistive technology, memory care, and home care. Before writing about healthy aging, she worked for an online women’s lifestyle magazine and as a grant writer for a nonprofit regenerative permaculture farm in Virginia. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University.

Edited byOurParents Staff

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.