An older adult couple smile happily at each other as they ride bicycles
For active older adults who want to embrace senior living, independent living may be a suitable option.

Older adults may want to continue living independently but no longer want the obligations that come with living in their own home. Perhaps a person has lived in their home for decades and wants to downsize to a smaller space. They may want a communal atmosphere with others in their age group. They may find it desirable to have access to fitness facilities, other amenities of convenience, and social or recreational programming — all without having to manage or organize it. In any of these cases, moving to an independent living community may be a viable option.

What is independent living?

Independent living communities are age-restricted residences for older adults that cater to their interests and needs. 

Independent living communities may be referred to by different names. Some other common names include

  • 55+ communities.
  • 62+ communities.
  • Active adult community.
  • Senior community.
  • Retirement villages.
  • Retirement communities.
  • Congregate care.
  • Independent living senior apartments.
  • Continuing care retirement communities.

A home in an independent living community can be a studio, one-bedroom, or multi-bedroom apartment. These homes are often in a larger building or in a development with many buildings.

The main purpose of independent living communities is to offer age-appropriate amenities and services to older adults who can remain living independently. 

What do independent living communities provide?

Independent living communities provide residents with the independence to live in their own homes within a community of their peers. The communities maintain the buildings and grounds so residents can enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle. 

The specific amenities vary among communities; however, some independent living communities have recreational facilities, like fitness centers or pools. They may also have dining rooms or restaurants on the property so residents can have meals without the obligation to prepare them. The communities may also plan social events for the residents to enjoy.

There are multiple types of independent living communities that offer varying services and amenities.

Continuing care retirement community

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) are known for offering different levels of care. Older adults can age in place when living in this style of facility. CCRCs may offer independent senior living, assisted living, nursing home care, and skilled nursing care. The variety in the level of care these communities offer helps adults live in the same community while accessing the care they need as their needs change.

Independent senior living apartments

Independent senior living apartments offer a range of services and safety measures to older adults who want to live among peers but maintain independence. Some communities may have dining options, while others that are higher-end in cost may have salons, fitness centers, and other on-site amenities.

Independent senior living communities may not have in-house personal care services, unlike assisted living facilities. Residents who require personal care or medical services may need to arrange for the care themselves.

Retirement communities

Retirement communities offer age-restricted housing, often eligible to adults age 55, 62, or 65 and over, depending on the age requirement of the particular community. They are most appropriate for older adults who can live independently but want to live among peers. These communities may offer fewer amenities than other senior living facilities, such as only basic services like outdoor maintenance.

Low-income senior housing

Low-income senior housing may be more affordable for older adults on fixed or limited incomes. Residents must meet income qualifications to be eligible to live in these communities. The amenities in these communities also vary among facilities but are more basic in nature.

Paying for independent living

When it is time to move to an independent living community, there are many ways to pay for independent senior living. Personal funds, insurance policies, loans, and even extra benefits can help pay for home care services to help older adults continue living at home while getting the help they need.