What Is an Independent Living Community?

Independent Living Community
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If you want to enjoy the company of other people your age, an independent living center might be a good fit for you.

As you approach retirement, you might be thinking about where you want to live during your golden years. Some people want to continue living in the family house, while others are eager to explore their options. Whether you want to stay in your town, move to a warmer part of the country, or make your home in another country, you will have many options for housing. As you start looking around, you might be pondering this question: What is an independent living community?

The term “independent living community” can refer to any of several things, including:

  • Retirement homes (but not nursing homes)
  • Senior housing
  • Retirement communities

An independent living community (ILC) can offer single-family homes, attached houses and apartments. Some ILCs provide limited assistance, while others require the residents be entirely independent.

Who Lives in an Independent Living Community

It is easier to say who does not live in an independent living community. People who need a great deal of assistance do not reside in these developments. A person who needs help with daily medical treatments and personal care will likely move into a nursing home, not an independent living community. An older adult with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia will probably not be a candidate for an ILC.

If you want to enjoy the company of other people your age, an independent living center might be a good fit for you. Many ILCs schedule regular activities, so seniors can socialize and meet people. Staying active and engaging in new experiences can help a person maintain both physical and mental health. A person who lives alone and watches television all day is more likely to suffer cognitive decline and medical problems, than one who gets out and stays involved with others.

Independent Living Center Amenities

The specific activities and services will vary from one ILC to another. Because the facility typically takes care of the yard work, repairs and other maintenance issues, residents have more free time to have fun. Some centers offer basic services, like housekeeping and laundry in the standard monthly fee. Other services, like meal preparation in your unit or the dining hall, can cost extra.

ILCs can be far less expensive than a nursing home, because the people who live in ILCs need little if any, help. The monthly fee, which averages around $2,750 a month for a one-bedroom unit, usually includes your rent and utilities. Some centers make you pay for your own cable television, internet and telephone. You might get a limited number of meals in the community dining room as part of your package. Many activities are free, like trivia contests, game night, bingo, dances and other scheduled events.

An ILC might have an onsite barbershop and beauty salon. Some centers have pools, fitness centers, tennis courts, golf courses and shops. It is common for ILCs to organize day trips to local attractions, like concerts, plays, shopping centers, museums, parks and grocery stores. Some facilities provide transportation to local doctors and dentists.

You should research each development under consideration, before reaching a decision. When you narrow your list down to the top three or four ILCs, visit them to get a feel for the places. Take a friend or relative who will give you honest feedback and notice potential problems. Make sure that the facility provides you a detailed list of all fees before you commit to moving there.


A Place for Mom. “What is an Independent Living Community?” (accessed November 21, 2019)