Both assisted living and independent living facilities offer seniors an opportunity to remain active, engage socially, and maintain a higher quality of life even as they enter into their retirement years, experience ongoing health issues, or otherwise want additional care while remaining independent.

Choosing which type of living facility will ultimately come down to individual needs and preferences. While assisted living and independent living share a lot in common, it is important to understand the ways in which they are different.

Differences Between Assisted Living and Independent Living

While both types of care facilities share many of the same practices and driving philosophies, assisted living and independent living facilities are each intended for seniors with differing needs. As a result, the two types of senior care facilities have distinct characteristics, differing in costs, supportive and medical care, and the level of family involvement that is optimal for each type of care.

Differences in Cost

Cost can be one of the most limiting factors in choosing the right care facility. Many programs offer aid or subsidies for seniors with certain health needs or family situations. Assisted living is generally treated in a similar fashion to a rental. All services and amenities are covered by a monthly fee, which includes many of the following:

  • Housekeeping
  • Maintenance
  • Security
  • Activities and programs
  • Three meals daily
  • 24-Hour staff
  • Nurses

Additionally, personal care services are built into the cost, generally providing between one and two hours of care per day that includes assistance with:

  • Bathing
  • Grooming
  • Dressing
  • Using the bathroom
  • Managing medication

The cost of independent living, however, is somewhat different. Residents in continuing care retirement communities generally pay a partially refundable entrance fee upon move-in with a monthly fee to cover:

  • Housekeeping
  • Maintenance
  • Security
  • Activities and programs
  • Some meals

Upon leaving, 75-90% of the move-in fee is usually refunded.

Differences in Supportive and Medical Care

One of the primary differences between assisted living and independent living is in the nature of and amount of medical and supportive care provided. Both include housekeeping, maintenance, security, activities, and programs, and a number of provided meals factored into their monthly cost. That’s pretty much all that independent living facilities offer, as they don’t generally offer health services or medical staff.

However, assisted living facilities include 24-hour staff and on-site nurses to provide supportive care in meeting daily needs and in keeping an observation on health and wellness. For example, many assisted living facilities, like our Assisted Living facility in Highlands Ranch, include around-the-clock aid and support with on-site physicians and even a hydrotherapy tub in each home. Though assisted living may be intended for seniors with existing health concerns, much of the care is also preventative, making it ideal for any and all retired adults who wish to stay active.

Differences in Family Involvement

Strong family interaction and support are critical to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Both types of care facilities encourage healthy family involvement and engagement. In independent living facilities, the resident remains the primary decision-maker, and families are encouraged to visit often and engage with the community.

In assisted living facilities, family members are asked to take a more active role in their loved one’s lives, particularly with regard to their health. This is especially helpful with helping those with dementia, as designated family members can be continually appraised as to their loved one’s progress.


Q: What Are the Disadvantages of Assisted Living?

A: Not all assisted living facilities operate the same. As a result, there is a significantly varying degree of quality differences between the available choices. Some assisted living situations may offer several disadvantages. Typical assisted living facilities, for example, often offer limited visiting hours, generally lack any private rooms, and can fail to provide adequate care due to understaffing. Lastly, cost can be a big disadvantage, as different facilities may not be covered by various benefit programs.

Q: What Is the Best Age to Move to Assisted Living?

A: While most seniors move into assisted living between the ages of 74 and 85, moving much earlier is actually more highly recommended, ideally moving to assisted living around 55-60. Generally, most seniors move into an assisted living situation at a point in which they can no longer care for themselves or are otherwise experiencing limiting health problems. Rather, seniors should move at an age where there is still the capacity to enjoy unique activities and the pace of everyday life.

Q: What Are the Odds of Ending Up in a Nursing Home?

A: There is a one in twenty chance that a senior aged 65 and older ends up in a nursing home. About half of those who do are over 85, and most are admitted with more than one medical condition. However, statistics are not a reliable indication of which side of the numbers you or your loved one wind up on. Instead, family medical history, personal health and fitness, and family makeup are better indicators of potential long-term care needs.

Q: What Services and Amenities Are Generally Wanted and Needed by Seniors?

A: More than anything else, senior residents want convenience and independence. Most seniors have spent a lifetime working and doing things for themselves and others. When it comes to services and amenities, there are certain ones that seniors generally actually want and would benefit from having. They include:

  • Laundry and linen services
  • Physical therapy and personal trainers
  • 24-Hour assisted living caregivers
  • Medication management
  • Transportation services
  • Social activities and events
  • Concierge services
  • Entertainment and game rooms
  • Library
  • Computer rooms

Many seniors and their families are beginning to rethink the many false assumptions made about caring for the elderly in their later years. Assisted living facilities are not nursing homes, and many operate in ways that actually encourage greater independent living. Ultimately, providing the right living care means treating seniors with dignity and respect and offering the types of services that improve the quality of life. If you or your loved one is ready to make the transition to assisted living while still promoting independence, contact us today.