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Key Differences of 55+ Housing & Independent Living

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Key Differences of 55+ Housing & Independent Living
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Key Differences of 55+ Housing & Independent Living

August 25, 2021

The staggering range of housing options for older Americans can make choosing a retirement residence frustrating and confusing. Between retirement communities, 55+ housing, 55 and older independent living, continuing care retirement communities and assisted living, it is important to remember that you have options. The key is understanding that you can live in an environment that maximizes your quality of life and longevity no matter your age or health.

an elderly couple smiling at one another. the man is holding a pen

How Do 55+ Housing and Independent Living Compare?

Two very popular options for people as they reach retirement age are 55+ housing and independent living. On the surface, they sound very much the same. Independent means without assistance and 55+ indicates older, retired residents. To decide which of these is right for you, you’ll want to look at the price, amenities, and lifestyle.

Price Comparisons

The cost of living in over 55 communities can vary greatly. When looking at 55+ communities, there are two costs to consider: the house or housing unit’s price and the monthly homeowners association (HOA) fee. The housing price is based on market value in that area, but you should ask questions about the HOA fee. Find out how the fee is set, when it can increase, and if there is a cap. An over 55 community that starts out with a low fee can become expensive if the costs are not managed properly.

The cost of independent living depends upon the area you choose to live in. When comparing similarly priced 55+ communities to independent living communities, remember that the costs for independent living communities include many services.  

Amenities Comparisons

This is the area where you will find the greatest difference between 55+ communities and independent living. Both forms of housing may include resort-style amenities like a pool and tennis courts.

Retirement communities for people 55 and older may also include groundskeeping services for common areas, but not housekeeping. While these communities are often built near shops and services, there are no options within the community for personal services like meal preparation or transportation.

Independent living communities usually include all the services you need now and in the future as you age in place. Groundskeeping and indoor housekeeping are available along with restaurant-style dining, activities and programs and other resident amenities. If you need more care, such as medication monitoring or personal care assistance, many independent living communities offer private-duty home care services, too.

Lifestyle Comparisons

Both 55+ communities and independent living allow for active lifestyles. The difference is that independent living provides more services to encourage activity. Most independent living communities organize various types of activities and trips for their residents. From a scrapbooking club to theater trips, independent living communities offer a variety of opportunities for socialization and fellowship.

What is the Difference Between Senior Housing and Senior Living?

Senior housing is built to maximize convenience for people who are retired. It usually includes a single-floor floorplan with no obvious trip hazards. When you live in senior housing, like a 55+ community, you are not responsible for building maintenance or yardwork in common areas, but you are responsible for the exterior upkeep of your home. In nicer communities, you might have access to a pool or golf course and be within walking distance of shops and services.

Senior independent living communities are built with convenience in mind. In an independent living community, there are clubs and activities along with personal care services available. Senior housing is mostly focused on the building, while senior living considers everything a senior needs to live an active lifestyle.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Living in a 55+ Community?

The pros and cons of a 55+ community depend somewhat on your situation. Most people who move to a 55+community enjoy living in a neighborhood where everyone is in the same age group. In most 55+ communities, you own your home.

However, living in an over 55 community can be isolating if you don’t already have friends in the area. In addition, if your plan is to age in place, you may not be able to do that in a 55+ community. The services you’ll need as you get older may not be available there.

Can Someone Who is Not 55 Live in a 55+ Community?

The rules of each community can vary and should be stipulated somewhere in the promotional materials. Typically, in a 55+ community, one member of the household must be 55 or older. One spouse could be under 55 and still able to live there. Children and younger family members may be allowed to visit for certain periods of time, but they cannot be full-time residents.

What are the Advantages of Independent Living?

Independent living allows you to reduce your responsibilities of homeownership in exchange for an amenity-rich, active lifestyle. Independent living also allows you to age in place more easily with an increasing level of support provided as required. That might not seem like an important factor now, but as your abilities shift or if you experience a sudden change in health, moving out of your home can be extremely stressful.

What Does Independent Living Include?

Independent living includes all the services you need now, like lawn maintenance and snow removal, so you can have more freedom to maintain your active lifestyle without having to manage chores and housekeeping. You’ll also enjoy a complete schedule of social and educational activities, restaurant-style dining, on-site amenities, scheduled transportation and more.

As you get older and need more help to maintain your active lifestyle, independent living communities may offer private-duty home care services. 

What is the Average Age for Those in Independent Living?

With the increase in retirement communities across the country, you can expect to find residents 55 and up in independent living communities. The average age in independent living is approximately 84, but this doesn’t mean you are too young to move there. Many of these residents moved in when they were much younger.

The advanced age of independent living residents demonstrates that support systems are in place for residents to remain there for the rest of their lives. Moving is a hassle that can get worse as you get older. If you move into an independent living community now, you’ll enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle with friends and activities, and chances are pretty good you’ll be there for a long time.

When you are ready to begin your active retirement, contact Embark to learn more about independent living.

Free Senior Living Options eBook

As you begin your search, use this easy to understand guide to help you better understand your options.

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