When you think about moving out of your home, worries come naturally. Who wouldn't feel trepidation when considering so many options and weighing so many priorities? Here's the thing, though -- every independent living community is different, and what's a new idea in one may be the most popular option in another. You can find the choice that's right for you. The best thing to do first is to throw out any misconceptions you may have about independent living in general. Here are six of the most common myths about independent living. Let's get them straight.
Myth 1: It's Going to Be Depressing
This is the number-one fear that most people have about independent or adult living, experts say. Some people have bad memories of dark, disinfectant-smelling nursing homes; others remember cramped quarters in overcrowded apartment towers. Happily, none of these fits the description of the modern independent living community, which is just as likely to resemble a tightly knit small town or a high-end spa resort. And the cure for this misconception is easy: Simply visit a few independent living communities near you. (They don't even need to be communities you're considering.) Talk to residents, spend an evening in a group activity, such as attending a lecture or concert, or tour the facilities. One afternoon spent playing tennis or one evening playing cards is about all it takes, experts say, to put this myth to rest.
Myth 2: You Can't Cook for Yourself
This myth has probably grown out of confusion between the variety of different living arrangements and kinds of facilities offered under the umbrella of senior living. In most independent living communities, you can choose to have your own house, apartment, or unit, with its own kitchen or kitchenette. Most communities have dining rooms or a choice of onsite cafes and restaurants, or both, but that by no means you're required to take your meals there. There are some senior living communities where rent includes regular meals in a communal dining room. If this isn't what you're looking for, you'll cross these communities off your list. In many senior living communities, if you start out cooking independently and later want to switch to a meal plan for some or all meals, you are welcome to do so.
Myth 3: You Can't Have a Pet
This may have been true in the past, but it is absolutely untrue today. A quick survey of many of the most popular independent living communities shows that cats are almost always allowed -- at least in most living arrangements -- and dogs are usually permitted too, at least up to a certain size. In addition, if you don't want the responsibility of caring for a pet but relish the companionship, many independent living communities have community cats and dogs happy to make friends with anyone who offers a lap, a treat, or a walk.
Myth 4: You'll Lose Your Independence
Many people resist the idea of moving into an independent living community because they fear losing the freedom to do as they like. But again, this concern seems to arise primarily because of confusion about independent living versus assisted living and nursing care. In reality, senior experts say, independent living typically provides people more independence because it frees them from the bulk of household chores and maintenance.
According to a 2011 survey conducted by AgeWave consultants (and sponsored by ViLiving), adults 65 and older who live in their own homes typically spend almost three hours a day on household chores such as cleaning, shopping, gardening, and home maintenance. (Women, on average, spend considerably more time than men, which may be why women often initiate the move to independent living!) Meanwhile, on average, they spend just 30 minutes a day socializing with friends and family and just 15 minutes a day exercising or participating in a sport or physical activity. By contrast, those who choose independent living report spending upwards of three hours a day socializing and two hours a day taking a class or participating in an activity, with just one hour a day spent on chores.
If continuing to participate in life outside an independent living community is your concern, that's not a problem, either. Coming and going is as easy as it is from your home. In fact, getting around may be easier if you prefer not to drive, since transportation is usually provided.
Myth 5: You Can't Have Overnight Guests
If having family and friends to stay is important to you, it shouldn't be hard to find an independent living situation where that's not only possible but comfortable. In terms of space, it's pretty much up to you -- it's going to be easier to have houseguests in a detached unit or apartment than in a studio, but the rules will typically allow it either way. If you cook for yourself or eat in onsite restaurants, hosting family for meals is easy, of course; if you usually eat in community dining rooms, most offer a guest meal payment option.
Myth 6: You Can't Host Social Events
In many independent living and retirement living communities, just the opposite is true; social events are encouraged. In fact, one of the fastest-growing trends in independent living communities is to provide multiple meeting rooms of varying sizes -- including access to kitchen and outdoor facilities -- so residents can host both small and large gatherings. Whether you want to invite 20 to Thanksgiving dinner or host an extravagant wedding anniversary celebration, there is likely a suitable space. (And you're free from the need to clean and spruce up your home beforehand.)
Many communities also offer activities and classes that appeal to all ages, and they encourage family participation. Crafting and art classes, hobby groups, swimming, and evening events are just a few of the family-centered activities that are popular in modern independent living communities. Invite your grandchildren to a family game night or an afternoon of swimming in the pool, and they may find your new home more inviting than your old one.