Independent living communities, also known as retirement homes or 55+ communities, are housing complexes for older adults who can care for themselves. Residents live in private homes, apartments or suites, come and go as they please, and make choices that are right for them. There are a variety of options, from studios and roomy two-bedroom apartments to cottages and other stand-alone structures. 

Unlike other senior care types, independent living does not offer health care, nursing care or assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and medication management. People who require that level of assistance may want to consider an assisted living community or nursing home instead.

Key Takeaways

  • Who Should Move to an Independent Living Community? Independent living communities are for older adults who can care for themselves.
  • What Are Some Services and Amenities Provided in an Independent Living Community? Residents live in private areas and come and go as they please.
  • How Much Does Independent Living Cost and How Can I Pay? Explore the financial landscape of independent living, where costs range widely based on services, location and amenities. 

Who Should Move to an Independent Living Community?

Independent living communities suit active adults seeking both a sense of community and privacy, without the need for ongoing assistance.

You can expect services such as meals and dining, scheduled social activities and transportation to events or appointments. However, you won’t receive assistance with daily tasks such as medication management, bathing and grooming assistance or ambulatory assistance.

You may want to consider a move to an independent living community if the following are true:

  • Socialization: You like the idea of living around other seniors and participating in social activities.
  • Safety: You want additional security and the ability to reach out to staff for emergency needs, but you don’t need daily assistance.
  • Privacy: You want to protect your privacy and independence, but your current home feels too big, isolating or difficult to maintain.
  • Leisure time: You enjoy your independence but wouldn’t mind giving up some daily obligations, such as housework or cooking.

For a more detailed guide, see our full article on how to choose an independent living community.

What Are Some Services and Amenities Provided in an Independent Living Community?

When you think about moving out of your home, it’s natural to feel worried; change can be hard. Additionally, the vast amount of options available can add pressure to making the right decision.

The best way to find the right community is to consider which amenities and services you want. This list of seven common benefits of independent living communities will help guide your search. 

1. Social and Entertainment Opportunities

A common concern among seniors is isolation. However, seniors often worry that if they move into a community for seniors, they’ll lose their freedom or it will be depressing. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Independent living communities promote active, social lifestyles, but you’re still in control of that lifestyle.

Here are just some of the social and activity benefits you can get from many independent living communities.

  • Friendships: Invite guests to spend time in your residence.
  • Free time: Come and go as you please.
  • Community outings: Community staff plans both events on the premises and excursions into nearby areas, making it easy to engage with new friends, learn new hobbies or attend local events.
  • Common areas: Many independent living communities have common areas and extra amenities, making it easy to socialize or stay active. This might include exercise rooms, computer rooms, libraries, television and entertainment areas, salons or barber shops, and restaurants or coffee shops.
  • Outdoor activities: Some communities are near clubs or parks, letting you engage in outdoor activities, including walking, golfing, tennis, frisbee golf or swimming.

Consider visiting a few independent living communities near you. Talk to residents, spend an evening participating in a group activity or tour the facilities. You’ll quickly see how social and active these communities are, and learn which ones best fit your interests.

2. Plenty of Meal Options, including DIY

Meal options vary with each community. Some senior living communities include three meals in a common dining hall as part of the cost of living, while others offer meal options in community dining halls that you can opt into on a regular, semi-regular or as-needed basis. On top of that, some independent living communities have more than one restaurant, cafe or coffee shop on-site to serve a variety of dining and snacking needs.

However, you don’t have to eat out all the time. Many independent living communities include residences with full or partial kitchens so you can cook for yourself or guests. Communal kitchen areas are also often available, where you can cook larger meals or host family for events.

It’s important to understand what you want when it comes to meals and food when choosing a community.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will you ever want to cook for yourself?
  • How much variety and choice do you want in your meal options?
  • How often will you want to invite guests for meals, coffee or tea times?

Most people eat a meal at least three times a day, so you’ll want to ensure your community offers the right meal services for you.

3. The Ability to Have a Pet

Independent living communities are about enjoying your retirement years to the fullest, which is why many allow pets. Of course, you do have to follow some guidelines.

Here are some common rules when it comes to owning pets in independent living communities:

  • Hygiene requirements: You’re responsible for your pets behavior and cleanliness. 
  • Size limitations: The size of the pet matters. Most facilities allow cats and small-to-medium-size dogs. Communities with more space may allow large dogs.
  • Pet types: Horses are usually not allowed unless you’re living in a farm or agricultural community. 

Some retirement homes even offer community animals. These may include dogs, cats and even livestock, depending on the location and type of community. The staff and residents work together to care for these animals so they can be enjoyed by all within the community.

Note: If animals are important to you, it’s worth examining a communitys restrictions or requirements. 

4. Housekeeping Services to Free Your Schedule

Independent living offers seniors a unique opportunity to liberate themselves from the often burdensome tasks of household chores and maintenance, which can become increasingly difficult as one ages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that individuals who reside in their own homes dedicate roughly three hours daily to household tasks. 

Here’s a comparison of how seniors at home spend time versus those in independent living:




Seniors at home

Three hours a day on household chores (e.g., cleaning, shopping, gardening)

30 minutes a day socializing with friends and family

15 minutes a day exercising or engaging in physical activity

Seniors in independent living

One hour a day on household chores

Three hours (or more) a day socializing

Two hours a day exercising or being active

Living in a community that includes housekeeping simplifies daily life, freeing up time for hobbies, socializing and personal growth, allowing seniors to enjoy a more relaxed and leisurely lifestyle. These services focus on maintaining a clean, comfortable and safe living environment for residents.

Housekeeping service options include:

  • Regular cleaning and tidying of living spaces.
  • Restocking essential supplies in bathrooms.
  • Providing fresh linens and managing beddings.
  • Periodic deep cleaning tasks for maintaining overall cleanliness.
  • Laundry services for personal items.

5. Areas for Hosting Gatherings

Kings and queens of hospitality don’t have to abdicate their thrones simply because they’ve moved into an independent living community. Rather, these communities promote additional socialization.

Amenities that boost opportunities for socialization might include:

  • Kitchens: Cook meals for guests in large common area kitchens. 
  • Dining areas: Reserve dining areas, meeting spaces or party rooms when hosting birthdays or other events with family and friends. Many community dining rooms also offer a guest meal payment option.
  • Small nooks: Areas such as seating rooms and libraries offer a space to sit with one or two friends or loved ones.
  • Outdoor areas: Outdoor locations, including gardens and grilling spaces, offer additional party hosting options.

Whether you’re used to hosting 20 people for dining extravaganzas or just want your children or grandchildren to spend a few days with you throughout the year, you can find an independent living community that supports your lifestyle.

6. Groundskeeping and Maintenance

Just as housekeeping removes inside chores from your to-do list and frees you up for socialization and activity, groundskeepers and maintenance staff take outdoor chores off your shoulders. 

Here are some outdoor chores that independent living staff takes care of:

  • Gutter cleaning
  • Spring yard work
  • Snow shoveling
  • Plumbing and electrical duties

This is a huge benefit for seniors who cannot physically handle these jobs or don’t want to pay someone regularly to do them. 

Some seniors may not want to give up all outdoor jobs, though. Gardening, for example, is a favorite hobby and stress reliever for many. Often, senior communities have shared garden spaces where residents can cultivate and grow flowers, herbs or vegetables to share with their neighbors.

Ask about maintenance, workflow and gardening at potential facilities to find a community that will best support you.

7. Staff on Hand for Peace of Mind

Finally, most independent living communities have staff on duty at all times of day.

Unlike in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, the staff doesn’t always include medically trained or licensed nurses. However, they do offer the following services:

  • Basic first response techniques: Staff is often trained in CPR and knows how to facilitate calling for emergency aid and communication.
  • General support: Staff is available to show residents how to use amenities or help make arrangements for work orders.
  • Questions: If you have any questions, a staff member can help.

To learn more about what staff provides and how services differ from assisted living, check out our article on the differences between the two levels of care.

How Much Does Independent Living Cost and How Can I Pay?

The cost of independent living varies greatly depending on service offerings, accommodation size and type, location and available amenities.

Senior Care Type

Annual costs (low end)

Annual costs (high end)

Independent living



Assisted living



Skilled nursing homes



You also hold some influence over the expenses. Here are some ways to help cut costs:

  • Customizable approach: Many communities offer optional services and amenities. Tailor services such as meals, dining, housekeeping and transportation to suit your budget.
  • Smaller accommodations: Opting for a studio or one-bedroom apartment over a larger option reduces costs.
  • Insurance: While medical insurance doesn’t cover independent living expenses, long-term care insurance often extends coverage for certain independent living services. Similarly, Medicaid and veterans benefits may alleviate some costs.

Your existing home also presents a viable means of funding your move into independent living. Selling your property generates proceeds to cover expenses directly, while renting out your residence contributes to covering community costs on a monthly basis.

Alternatively, a reverse mortgage on your home allows you to borrow against its equity, particularly if you wish for loved ones to continue residing in the property. However, it’s imperative that you seek advice from a financial professional and make sure you thoroughly understand the conditions associated with a reverse mortgage before pursuing one.

Other options for covering the cost of an independent living community include:

  • Cashing out value in a whole life policy
  • Using proceeds from long-term investments
  • Using regular retirement income that you won’t need for housing, food or transportation costs if you opt for a community where those things are included

How Do I Find an Independent Living Community?

To find an independent living community near you, search by ZIP code here in the Independent Living Directory. Be sure to look for reviews of independent living communities written by other residents or their loved ones.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, take a tour to see the amenities firsthand. Ask for a complete cost analysis with every charge detailed, and be wary of extra fees or hidden costs. Many independent living communities will even let you or your loved one stay as a guest for a night or two to get a better idea of what the lifestyle really feels like.

Finally, take your time. Finding a community that best meets you or your loved one’s needs helps ensure long-term success. For information about finding an independent living community for couples, please visit our Independent Living for Couples Guide.

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