What’s the Difference Between Independent Living vs. Assisted Living?


Senior living communities today aren’t like those of years past. Old-fashioned nursing homes are no longer the only option for older adults. Both independent living (IL) and assisted living (AL) communities offer supportive lifestyles tailored to vital and active older adults. These places are well-kept and offer a wide variety of activities and events for residents to enjoy.

If you’re struggling to decide which one is right for you, we’re here to explain the similarities and differences between IL and AL. 

Understanding Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

Independent living communities are for active seniors who can live completely independently with little to no assistance. Most, if not all, IL communities offer amenities like recreational activities, social events, and transportation services. 

Assisted living communities offer many of the same amenities as IL but with additional support and care for daily tasks like medication management and bathing. It’s important to note that AL is not the same as a nursing home. It’s actually closer in style to IL but designed for those who might need a little more help. 

What is Independent Living?

Independent living communities offer seniors an active lifestyle without home ownership responsibilities. With centralized hospitality services, residents can live maintenance-free and enjoy socializing with friends.

Apartment-Style Homes

Independent living communities offer a range of housing options, from studios to two-bedroom apartments or cottages, that come with various amenities such as balconies and direct access to outdoor spaces. Residents can enjoy private living areas while also having access to communal spaces. The apartments or cottages in IL usually come equipped with features similar to those found in apartments, townhouses, or small homes, including all-inclusive utilities and in-unit laundry facilities. IL apartments also typically include a full kitchen for residents who enjoy cooking.

Centralized Health Services

Although independent living communities offer various supportive services to enhance their residents’ quality of life, they do not typically provide 24/7 access to medical care. The primary focus is on creating an enjoyable daily experience by removing everyday chores and responsibilities that may become challenging for aging individuals.

How Much Does Independent Living Cost?

On average, IL costs anywhere from around $2,400 to around $5,000, depending on which state you live in. The primary expenses related to independent living generally include rent, utilities, and optional meal plans. Residents often choose from a range of meal plan options depending on their needs and preferences. 

Unlike assisted living, IL isn’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance providers, as these communities don’t offer medical services. Therefore, the residents generally pay for the expenses through various sources such as Social Security benefits, retirement savings, pension income, life settlements, reverse mortgage funds, annuities, or personal funds.

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living communities offer a supportive environment for individuals who require some assistance with activities of daily living (ADL) while retaining a degree of independence.

Housing Options

The most common type of housing in assisted living communities is apartment-style units. Unlike IL, however, AL options are usually limited to studios or 1-bedroom apartments. 

Housekeeping services and daily prepared meals are also typically provided, ensuring residents can enjoy a comfortable and stress-free living environment.

Care Services

Assisted living communities prioritize assisting residents with ADLs, including:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Grooming
  • Medication management and reminders
  • Medical transportation
  • Encouragement to eat and socialize
  • Assistance getting into and out of bed
  • Daily medical needs such as taking blood pressure or going to physical therapy

Although some AL communities have medical professionals available, they usually don’t provide intense physical or mental care. Instead, families and care teams work together with specialized staff to ensure residents receive the appropriate level and type of care. 

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

Assisted living costs usually include the base rates, which cover rent, utilities, and essential services such as meal plans and housekeeping. However, depending on their needs, residents may have to pay extra for specialized care or personalized support. These additional services are often available within the community.

Assisted living provides more options for covering expenses than IL. These options include long-term care insurance policies, Veterans aid programs, and Medicaid assistance for seniors with low income. While Medicare does not cover AL, exploring these financial options can significantly reduce the financial burden for families looking for quality care for their loved ones.

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living: How to Choose?

When you’re trying to decide between independent living and assisted living, the key factor is how much care you require. To make the right choice, you need to gather as much information as possible about your options. Take the time to research and compare different IL and AL communities, considering things like the amenities they offer, the services they provide, the costs involved, and where they’re located. It’s also a good idea to tour the communities you’re considering so you can get a better sense of the environment, atmosphere, and level of care they provide.

By carefully evaluating your needs and preferences and exploring all the available options, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your lifestyle and promotes your overall well-being, whether you choose an IL or AL community.

Learn if New Perspective is Right For You

New Perspective has dozens of senior living communities around the Midwest, each offering several levels of living options. Whatever your needs, there’s a New Perspective community waiting to welcome you home.

Learn more about NP’s senior living options or take a 360 virtual tour today!