Senior Independent Living: Definition, Services, and Cost

senior independent living
senior independent living

As you age, it’s important to make decisions that help you attain your desired lifestyle. Where you plan to live is among those important considerations. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer care and hands-on help, while independent living provides freedom and flexibility with the support of a community. Here’s why senior independent living communities are gaining popularity among retirees.

Senior Independent Living Defined

Senior independent living facilities are great for seniors who are capable of living alone. They provide close access to support and assistance when needed, but most residents don’t require regular care. Some of these communities offer a variety of services that their residents may enjoy. These services can include medical care, entertainment options, and different dining experiences. Residents also may have access to hospitality, housekeeping, and laundry services for an additional charge.


Senior independent living communities are similar to traditional housing communities. However, these communities may have age limits and restrictions. Many residents tend to live alone until their health declines. At that point, they may hire a caregiver or invest in a medical alert system so they can avoid moving to a different facility.

Types of Senior Independent Living Facilities

There are many different types of senior independent living facilities. Each comes with different amenities, services, and costs. Here are some of the most common senior independent living communities that you may want to consider when planning for retirement.

Senior Apartments

Most of these communities have age restrictions that require residents to be a minimum of 55 to 62 years old. Senior apartments often offer an array of services, including meal service, transportation, and social events.

As with traditional apartments, residents can choose standard or more luxurious living accommodations. Depending on the living facility you choose, it may provide additional amenities such as gym access, libraries, gardens, computer labs, and salons Keep in mind, the more luxurious apartments may come with a higher price tag. Thus, this is an important consideration when selecting living accommodations for retirement.

Age-Restricted Communities

senior independent living
senior independent living

Age-restricted communities allow seniors to share amenities or services, which can include golf courses or swimming pools. As the name implies, the communities require residents to be a certain age. Residents can choose to rent or purchase a single-family home, duplex, condominium, town home, or mobile home.

This type of independent living community facilitates socialization and encourages resident participation. Members can join organized activities or establish clubs. For example, many communities offer singing groups, foreign language lessons, volunteer opportunities, and golf teams.

Subsidized Independent Living for Seniors

Through the Section 202 program, known as Supportive Housing for the Elderly, the federal government subsidizes housing for seniors. This means that if a senior has a low income they can obtain financial help with housing expenses. If you qualify, you may spend less than 30% of your monthly income on rent. Local nonprofits collaborate with the USDA’s Rural Housing Service and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide affordable housing for seniors.

It’s important to note that all developments cannot serve all eligible applicants. In some areas of the country, seniors may have to wait a few months or a year before a unit becomes available. Also, these subsidized communities do not have age restrictions. They are for eligible individuals of all ages.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities give seniors access to different levels of care. This is to provide accommodations as their needs change during the retirement years. These living facilities often offer independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. The biggest advantage of selecting a continuing care retirement community is that you may not have to move as your needs change.

However, many of these communities come with a high entrance fee. Essentially, you’re paying for your future care needs upfront. Residents will also have to pay homeowners association fees as well as their mortgage or rental payments. Even though the cost is higher, some of these communities may partner with nonprofits that can help lower the expenses.

Senior Co-housing

One of the newer types of senior living is senior co-housing. These communities are an assortment of private households that take care of the property, social events, and address concerns as a community. Senior co-housing communities may also offer property services such as carpooling, maid services, lawn care, and more.

Co-housing arrangements may vary by community, region, and group. This type of housing is often more affordable since the cost is divided among all residents.

How to Afford Senior Independent Living

If you don’t have a low income and you don’t qualify for rent subsidy, you may have to pay for your living costs in retirement. Generally, long-term care insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid won’t cover the costs of senior independent living. Most likely, you’ll have to use your own money to afford senior independent living. To afford these costs you may need to use pension payments, Social Security benefits, or your retirement savings and investments.

You likely should consult with a financial planner or advisor when considering independent living expenses as part of your retirement plan. Your financial planner can help you determine what you can afford and create a plan for payment.

Bottom Line

senior independent living
senior independent living

When selecting senior housing for you or a loved one, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each community. Not only will you need to think about what you need now, but you’ll need to consider what you may need for the future.

As you age, you may have different needs that require a different level of care. So, as you consider each independent living option, be sure to consider your future needs as well.

Retirement Tips

  • According to industry experts, people who work with a financial advisor are twice as likely to be on track to meet their retirement goals. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

  • Figure out how much you’ll need to save to retire and live comfortably. An easy way to get ahead on saving for retirement is by taking advantage of employer 401(k) matching.

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