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Selecting an Independent Living Community

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

To see a list of Independent living facilities, enter your desired area (zip, city, or full address) and then click on the independent living button at the top to see only independent living facilities in your area.

Independent Living

You’re in a pickle. The home you raised your children in, the place you came home from work to for 30 years, and the yard you manicured, is now too much. You no longer have the desire to weed the flower bed, lug the vacuum upstairs, and listen to your neighbor’s son’s car stereo booming at night. Heck, you don’t even know your neighbors anymore.

But the memories of this place stretch your entire adult life. Your kids took their first steps in the living room. You took their high school graduation pictures in the front yard. Your grand kids love playing in the oak-shaded back yard.

Making the decision to move into something more manageable is not easy at first. But once you see the necessity and start to think about the possibilities of a new life, a change, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted. And you’ll feel freer than ever.

We’ll try to make selecting an independent living community as easy as possible. We know it’s a big decision. We’ll arm you with answers, questions and everything in between.

What is an Independent Living Community?
Simply put, it’s a community for active, healthy seniors who are able to live on their own. You can live in a home, townhouse, condo, and even a mobile home or motor home. You can own or rent or live as part of a cooperative. Think of it like living in your old neighborhood except these communities have age restrictions—usually over 55—and many offer amenities like clubhouses, gyms, yard maintenance, housekeeping and security.

Independent living communities also typically offer transportation, laundry service, group meals, and social and cultural activities.

Is Independent Living Right for Me?
You can’t read the future, but you’re healthy right now. You’d like to be around your peers. You value security. You like your independence but don’t want to bother with some tasks like yard work and housekeeping. This is a start. Let’s look at some other things to consider when selecting an independent living community.

How to Select the Right Community?
What are some things you just won’t compromise on? E.g. size of home, location of community, distance to family, etc. Make a list.

And here’s where your wisdom comes in to play. Visit the community. Get a feel for the people who live there. Talk to the residents and staff. Are they friendly? Do the residents seem truly independent? Do you share some of the same hobbies and interests? Do you want to get to know these people better? Could you see having them over for dinner? 

How big is the community? Do you like a small, quiet community or a large, bustling one? Is there a common area that residents use? If you’ve only ever lived in a house will an apartment on the 10th floor make you feel confined? Do you prefer a small house without a yard? A condo with flower beds? Is there adequate room for guests? For storage? Are there stairs? Will you have the ability to add ramps? Is it pet friendly? What are the restrictions, if any, for little things like displaying the American flag on holidays? Parking a motor home in the drive way?

Are you close to friends and family? Do you feel safe on the grounds? In the neighborhood? Is it well lit? To your doctors and hospital? To the mall, restaurants, and the movies? Are you within walking distance to any grocery stores or pharmacies? Is there a gym in the community or one close by? Are there walking trails nearby? Parks?

Things to Do
Is there a pool? A recreational center? A common area? Is there a reading group? A knitting group? A bowling league? A bridge group? Are there residents who like to ride bikes? Go to the beach? Travel? Bird watch?

Costs are in line with the market prices of similar housing in that region. And there can be shared costs like common utilities, taxes and community services. These can run $1,000 to $2,000 per monthly. Other services like housekeeping are usually additional.

Low income seniors can find subsidized programs through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Here are some costs to consider when researching independent living communities. Ask if they’re included:

  • Waiting list deposit
  • Move-in fee
  • Initial assessment fee
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Meals
  • Cable TV
  • Utilities
  • Private phone
  • Transportation
  • Internet access
  • Parking
  • Field trips
  • Wellness program 

Additional questions to ask:

  • Is there a pet deposit?
  • What are the billing and payment options?
  • What is the policy for fee increases?
  • Is personal property insurance required?

Updated: Feb 14, 2011

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[2] Comments... Read them below.
Wilfred Yracheta On May 23, 2017
I am looking for an independent living facility in Coeur d'Alene Idaho. I would prefer an apartment that is pet friendly on account I own an 8 lb dog that I have documentation for him being my companion animal.

vance spencer On May 19, 2017
I am looking for an independent living for myself and my dog and two birds in the Eureka California area or the Lake Tahoe California side. I am 67 type two Diabetic. Vance Spencer