With medical advances and a greater appreciation of the effect that diet and exercise have on health, many adults today are living considerably longer than their parents did.
Given the sheer size of the baby boomer generation and the fact that an estimated 10,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age every day from now until 20301, it’s no surprise that the demand for independent living is on the rise.
So What Is Independent Living Anyway?
In general, independent living refers to private residences for people who are still able to live independently but wish to take advantage of living in a community that provides services and benefits.
That’s a broad definition, yet it distinguishes independent living from assisted living, which, as the term implies, is for those who require some assistance with daily routines, such as personal care, meal preparation, and medication reminders. Many retirement communities offer both independent living and assisted living, as well as skilled nursing, memory care (for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia) and rehabilitation services.
Rather than restricting your lifestyle, as some people incorrectly assume, moving to an independent living community gives you more possibilities for enjoying life and more freedom to live on your terms. As a bonus, it could very well improve your health, too!
Reasons People Choose Independent Living
Ask a dozen people who live in an independent living community why they decided to move there, and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers. Some of the most common reasons are:
- To spend less time taking care of a home and more time traveling, engaging with family and friends and pursuing activities of interest
- To meet new friends and have more social interaction
- To have easier — and in some cases guaranteed — access to health care services if the need should arise (e.g., in a Life Plan Community)
- To feel safer and more secure, knowing that assistance is close at hand if needed
- To be around others of similar age, who may have had similar life experiences
- To explore new interests in a comfortable and safe environment
- To be more active, both physically and mentally
- To take advantage of the many conveniences the community offers
- To enjoy healthy meals without having to cook
- To be near a spouse who requires assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing care (in communities that offer a full suite of health services)
- To protect an estate/assets
- To have a plan in place for the future
What Does Independent Living Look Like?
Just like within communities at large, there are all types of residence options for independent living, from casitas and cottages to condominiums, high-rise apartments and even mobile homes, and three- and four-bedroom houses to studios. Not all independent living communities offer all types of residences, but many do provide a variety of options.
Some independent living communities are located in rural settings, with miles of trails for hiking, gardens for tending, and the beauty of nature all around. Others are situated in bustling urban areas, convenient to cultural events, fine dining venues and professional league sporting events.
A common thread among many independent living communities is the camaraderie residents enjoy. Some are like small villages, where most people know each other, and friendliness prevails. When people have fewer concerns and more opportunities to enrich their lives, they tend to be happier, and that’s apparent in nearly any independent living community you might visit.
The Benefits of a Life Plan Community
As noted earlier, many of today’s retirement communities can accommodate residents who prefer an independent living lifestyle as well as those who require assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing or rehabilitation. Some also provide hospice care. Previously referred to as continuing care retirement communities, they’re now known as Life Plan Communities.
If you choose a Life Plan Community for the vibrant, independent living lifestyle it offers, you’ll also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have easy access to different levels of care if your needs change. This type of retirement community is also a good choice for couples that need different levels of care (or when one spouse needs care services and the other doesn’t).
Some Life Plan Communities give you the opportunity to experience even greater peace of mind with a Life Care agreement. This type of agreement ensures that all levels of care will be provided even if you outlive your assets or your financial situation changes through no fault of your own.
Another Possibility: Living Independently, Without Moving
If you want to maintain your independence without moving to an independent living community, a life plan at home program such as LiveWell By Blakeford that’s designed to help you successfully age at home could be a viable alternative. These programs might offer services such as coordinating medical appointments and private duty care, along with transportation, healthy living classes, an emergency response system, and, under certain circumstances, homemaker and companion services. As a member of such a program, you’d have access to the benefits of a traditional retirement community without having to move out of your home.
Since LiveWell By Blakeford is part of a Life Plan Community, you would also have guaranteed access to a full suite of health services at Blakeford at Green Hills if you should ever need them.
The Best Time to Enjoy Your Independence is Now
If you’re considering moving to a retirement community that offers independent living, a word of advice is to make the move sooner rather than later. Moving while your health is good will give you the opportunity to take advantage of everything the community offers, from fitness classes and holiday festivities to day trips and seminars.
There’s another reason to act promptly, while your health is good: You must be able to live independently if you wish to move to an independent living community. That includes managing your daily personal routines and taking your medications without assistance. If you wait and your health needs change, you may miss your window of opportunity.
As you consider your options, take into account not only what appeals to you today but also what your needs might be later on. Visit several communities to see where you feel most comfortable. Take a friend or family member along with you for another perspective. Ask lots of questions and talk to people who live there. It’s a big decision, but you can enjoy the process of making it!
Explore Independent Living at Blakeford at Green Hills
Whether you’re looking to move in or just want to join us for a tour, we’re glad to serve as your resource for all things independent living. Contact us with any questions and to learn what life as a community resident or LiveWell member is all about.
1 The Baby Boomer Generation, https://www.seniorliving.org/life/baby-boomers/ accessed 4/26/19.
Originally posted by Sun Health Communities 8/21/19.