Independent Living What to Consider

A person usually considers independent living in their later years, when their stairs become too steep, their yard work too cumbersome and their housekeeping for a home once full (now the empty nest) too much to deal with every day.  Independent living is for those who want to maintain their independence, and the invaluable privacy that goes with it, as long as they can. 

Independent living options are usually the most independent and least restrictive modes of getting on with life, since independent living communities are deliberately structured for older adults, 55 and over, who can care for themselves.  

There are several kinds of independent living communities to choose from.

The first of the independent living options is the continuing care retirement setting, a transitional mode of living that offers visitations from medical professionals who not only maintain the individuals health but check in on him or her to see that all their needs are being met.  An expensive option, the CCRC fees can range from $100K to up to a million. 

Some CRCCs offer refundable fees:  if the individual passes away, the surviving family receives a pro-rated refund.  However, most of the upper level CRCCs fees are flat and non-refundable.  

Some other features of the CCRC include assistance in housekeeping and lawn care, medical treatments free of charge (included in the payments) and delivery of food with such services as Meals on Wheels.  Many of the communities offer two to three bedroom cottages or condominiums, or, for the single person, one bedroom apartments with no lawn care needed. 

In addition, most CRCCs are fully accredited as rehabilitation facilities, and their commitment to their residents health, life quality and well-being is usually exceptional. 

The second option for independent living is the retirement community, a facility that offers accommodations in single-family homes, townhouses, condos or even mobile homes; residents have the option to rent or buy, in most cases.  The retirees in such communities are far more open and interactive, so some privacy is lost, but camaraderie and friendships are gained.

Another option is senior apartments, which are one- and two-bedroom affairs with kitchens and accommodating bathroom facilities, modified for handicapped use; these complexes are tightly knit communities (and far less expensive than the other options), and they offer classes in exercise and cooking, as well as community meals and activities.  The rent for a senior apartment is far less than other options, and usually includes utilities. 

Finally, subsidized housing is available for the independent individual living on a pension, with fees based on income and disability.  There are usually fairly strict criteria for such residences (such as no smoking, no pets, etc.) and a lengthy waiting list as well. 

What should one consider in choosing an independent living option?

First, one should consider the location and the overall first impression.  Is it near shopping, entertainment, transportation?  Are the staff and residents friendly and courteously interactive?   Are visits encouraged, and are most of the apartments occupied?  Is the facility clean and orderly?  Is the waiting list excessively long or viable for the resident?

Next, one considers the living space:  is the floor plan easy to follow and well designed?  Are there wheelchair accommodations?  Are there elevators?  Is there good lighting, clearly marked exits, fire prevention?  Does the security seem appropriate?  How much in the way of furnishings and appliances does the resident provide himself?  Is there an emergency response system operating 24/7? 

Finally, what is the contractual obligation?  How much are the fees and services?  Can one increase the fees to accommodate more care? 

If all the answers are satisfactory, the resident has probably found his or her independent living facility.