What is independent living?

Active seniors who are living without major health concerns may not want to deal with the responsibilities of maintaining a home anymore. Others who are comfortable looking after household chores and yard work, may be feeling isolated living on their own or apart from family. For those seniors, independent living is a wonderful option to continue enjoying life while letting someone else take care of cooking, cleaning, lawn maintenance etc. 

What is “independent living?"

What is independent living for seniors? What does independent living mean? When is senior independent living needed? Independent living is designed for older adults who wish to live in a thriving residential community while maintaining their privacy and independence, with access to a variety of condo-style features and amenities. Generally, independent living means that you need minimal assistance with day-to-day activities like getting dressed, bathing, eating or taking medications.

At Amica retirement residences, independent living offers private, beautifully designed accommodations in private suites with a variety of floor plans. Included in the cost of senior living are meals and snacks, weekly housekeeping and linen laundry services and a wide selection of popular recreational activities and social events tailored to the preferences of residence. As a resident, you have the freedom to set your own schedule, come and go as you please, and invite friends and family over whenever you wish. If you need a little assistance temporarily while recovering from an illness or injury, or if your needs evolve, you can rest assured that qualified help is available 24/7. Support evolves as your needs change.

What’s the difference between assisted living and independent living?

The most common question about assisted living and independent living is what’s the difference. And how does someone tell which one they need? These two senior living options provide different levels of care. In assisted living, you would have more care services included to help with medical conditions, mobility issues, etc. Independent living doesn’t include care: it focuses on convenient services and amenities for active seniors. Before you move to a senior living residence, you will be directed toward the best lifestyle option for you based on the kind of assistance you need to go about your daily life.

There are four main differences between assisted living and independent living:

1. Daily routines and services

Seniors who need a hand with some tasks such as showering, grooming or getting dressed are best suited for assisted living where those services are typically included in the monthly fee.

Independent living is best for seniors who can handle most, or all, of their day-to-day tasks without assistance. For both, help is always available on-site and around the clock.

2. Medical and supportive care

Assisted living typically includes assistance when and where you need it whether for health conditions or daily routines, such help with medications, tension stockings, transfers to and from mobility devices or getting around. Support is provided by nurses, personal support workers and other medical support.

Not all independent living communities have professional health staff on duty around the clock, although you may arrange for home care to support you in a residence

At Amica residences, assisted living residents have 24/7 access to a nursing and wellness team. Independent living residents who need these services—for example, while recovering from an operation or illness—can purchase them on an a la carte basis.

3. Dining

Depending on the residence, you will likely have an on-site dining room providing daily meals, whether you live in assisted living or independent living. In assisted living, for seniors who require ongoing support, you’d typically have a smaller kitchenette in your suite as all your meals are included. Some senior care residences offering both independent living and assisted living also have dedicated dining rooms for each lifestyle, so you don’t have to travel too far from your suite to get to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Independent living residences may have either have an in-suite full kitchen or kitchenette; you may have the choice to opt into a full or partial meal plan.

No matter what level of care you select, at Amica you are always able to enjoy fresh, delicious meals and snacks prepared to your specifications by a professional chef and culinary team. Meals are included in independent living and assisted living at Amica, and you will also have your own kitchenette or kitchen right in your suite (set-ups vary depending on location and lifestyle option). Residences also offer a craft kitchen so you can do your holiday baking or make your signature dish, just as you always have. Private dining rooms are also available for you to host gatherings with friends and family.

4. Price

Independent living residences generally cost less than assisted living residences (for the same size suite in the same residence) because an independent living resident requires little or no medical or personal care assistance from staff. By contrast, assisted living has a much larger range of services available; the extensive care is reflected in the cost. To track what’s included at different retirement homes, you can download and fill out this Amica worksheet to compare costs

Types of an independent living facilities and retirement homes

When you’re thinking about an independent living community, it helps to understand common lingo used to describe different types of independent living facilities and retirement homes.

  • Retirement home or retirement community: This style of seniors’ residence could take different forms: apartment, condo, townhouse, duplex, detached house, etc. Depending on the residence, additional fees may be required for recreation, a community centre or outdoor maintenance.

Amica operates private retirement residences where seniors in independent living pay a monthly fee for accommodation, amenities, dining, entertainment, transportation, maintenance and more. Care is not included but is always available should a senior’s needs evolve.

  • Low-income or subsidized senior housing: These residences are subsidized by various levels of government. They offer comprehensive care but may be limited in the amount or variety of additional services they offer, including recreational activities.
  • Senior apartments:  This refers to apartment complexes restricted by age and sometimes designed with seniors’ needs in mind. Rent or fees may include transportation services, recreation programs and meals in a communal dining area.

Choosing an independent living facility or retirement home

Choosing an independent living facility or retirement home requires some thought, research and decision-making to find the right fit for you. Some points to consider when you book a tour:

  • Do you feel comfortable and welcomed? What is community life like? Visiting during a meal or community activity can help you get a sense of the overall atmosphere and approach.
  • Try a meal during your visit to see if it meets your expectations and requirements.
  • What activities do you currently enjoy and want to continue? What activities would you like to try? Are those options available at the locations you’re considering?
  • Are common areas safe, well-maintained and well-supplied? Does the place smell clean and fresh?
  • If possible, talk to a variety of staff members to see if they are people you like and trust.
  • Is more care or assistance available should you need it in the future?
  • Consider transportation. Will you be bringing your own vehicle and if so, what parking is available? Is there public transportation nearby? Does the residence provide transportation?
  • How does the location fit with your needs? Do you want a residence that is close to family, shops and services, walking trails, green space, medical facilities?
  • How much does the residence cost? Are there additional fees for additional services?
  • Does the layout of your potential new home suit your needs? Can you bring a pet?

Read this guide for a list of key questions to ask on a retirement home tour

Benefits of independent living

  • Independent living services and amenities are part of the appeal of living in a retirement community. Some communities offer basics like a TV lounge or games room. Known for its excellent amenities and activities, Amica residences may include a fitness centre, pool, fitness classes, recreational workshops, guest speakers, visiting artists and musicians, a salon, a library or gardening centre, all in-house. At Amica, the amenities and activities are available for you to take part in if you wish; most are included in the monthly cost of independent living.
  • Many opportunities to stay social Living with your peers while maintaining privacy and independence are also important draws for independent living communities. Some seniors struggle with isolation and loneliness while living on their own, and retirement communities offer a chance to connect with neighbours and friends through informal socializing and planned outings and events. Consider whether you’d like to be in a smaller setting with fewer residents or a larger residence.
  • Great locations Senior living communities are often located in family-friendly locations surrounded by convenient amenities, shops and services and nearby green space. Amica residences are in the best neighbourhoods in Ontario and British Columbia.
  • Medical and supportive care if you need it Consider what kind of care is available in a residence you’re considering, should your needs change temporarily or permanently due to illness or injury. For example, would you prefer to hire a home care provider from an outside agency or have nursing support provided in-house? At Amica, active seniors can access a la carte nursing and wellness care while still enjoying independent living. That’s one element that sets Amica apart: seniors have a continuum of care options under one roof that adapts as their needs change. This gives seniors and families peace of mind that they won’t have to move again.

Independent living costs

The cost of retirement living can vary due to a number of different factors: how much health care support is needed, accommodation preferences, the quality and number of amenities and services offered, dining options, and location. You’ll find wide range in terms of quality and desirability, and it’s important to consider how your quality of life would be affected by living in any residence you’re considering. This guide helps you understand the differences between basic senior living and premium senior living.

Independent living resources

  1. Supporting a loved one in a move to independent living with answers to top questions about retirement living.
  2. Which senior living experience is best for you or your parent? Get answers in four questions to help you or your parent choose the best senior living experience.
  3. If you’re wondering if senior living is right for you, try seven signs you’re a good candidate for senior living
  4. Get help finding a senior living community with independent living in how to research senior living residences.
  5. Find an Independent Living Residence in Canada