Skip to main content

Assisted living vs. independent living for seniors

Which is the right solution for your parent?

Just as your parents kept you safe, comfortable, and protected when you needed it, there comes a time when you may need to return this same love —especially if they are living with early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Deciding to move a parent into senior housing can be a challenging decision if you’re unfamiliar with the types of senior living options. If your parent does not require continual care or monitoring and is still relatively independent, the choice may come down to two options: assisted living vs. independent living.

Similarities between assisted living and independent living

There are similarities between Assisted Living Facilities (ALF’s) and Independent Living (IL) communities for seniors. Both communities include:

Examples of independent living
  • A sense of independence and privacy.

  • Housing and some support services.

  • Recreational activities—like games, discussion groups, special celebrations, fitness classes, and outings—exclusive to each facility’s residents and abilities.

  • Resident transportation services to and from appointments, the stores, and other errands.

Features of assisted living facilities for seniors

Assisted Living facilities are primarily for people who require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) and cannot live alone due to physical or cognitive limitations. The move into an ALF can help keep your parent healthier, safer, and even happier with the following amenities:

Care services

Some ALFs don’t have around-the-clock nursing staff like skilled nursing facilities; however, there is on-site trained staff available to provide support with:

  • Meal preparation

  • Housekeeping and laundry

  • Access to a personal care assistant for assistance with ADL’s like toileting, bathing, dressing

  • 24-Hour emergency call systems

  • Assistance with medication administration

  • Wellness and social enrichment activities

meal prep, housekeeping. laundry, and medication admin

Living space

ALF Assisted living facility living layouts vary among facilities. There are studio apartments up to three-bedroom apartment arrangements. Each unit consists of a private bathroom, living and bedroom space, and space for storage. Some units may also be furnished with full kitchens, depending on the level of care offered at the ALF.

Additional care

Some ALFs offer specialized accommodation for seniors with cognitive impairments, called memory care.

Features of independent senior living communities

An independent living community for seniors is intended for individuals who don’t require assistance performing ADLs. IL may be a perfect option for your parent because it can provide her with a comfortable home-like environment while keeping her independent, socially active, healthy, and safe. If you need help finding the right senior care option for your loved one, A Place for Mom helps hundreds of thousands of families each year find peace of mind with free guidance. IL communities offer the following amenities:

Care services

IL communities decrease your parent’s daily responsibilities, allowing her to continue living independently for as long as possible.

Typically, residents live in their own private space and have access to a residential common area.

Typically, residents live in their own private space and have access to a residential common area.


The amenities of an independent living community are like those of a standard apartment, townhouse, or small home. Laundry and housekeeping services, on-site dining facilities, security surveillance, and related services are usually offered.

Living space

While IL the space varies, common housing options include apartment-style communities, co-living housing, and villas. Typically, residents live in their own private space and have access to a residential common area. Independent living communities are also referred to as senior apartments, active adult communities, retirement communities, or 55+ communities.


Because full-time medical or personal care are not on staff, a modern medical alert device can offer your mom or dad a simple, convenient, and inexpensive way to stay safe at home or on the go.

Additional care

If personal care or nursing staff are needed, these services are usually paid for separately and privately. Personal care services offered in an ALF are usually not found in an independent living community.

Financial resources for assisted living facilities and independent senior living

In addition to the differences in the provision of care levels, independent living and assisted living facilities are distinguishable based on the financial resources that can be utilized to cover the cost of living in these communities.

Since independent living communities don’t provide medical services to residents, Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance won’t assist with the cost. Instead, they must privately pay with funds from Social Security benefits, pensions, retirement savings, and other private assets.

However, because assisted living communities provide a higher level of assistance, more options are available to cover costs. Along with paying with personal funds, some long-term care insurance policies and benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may pay for some portions of AL. Although Medicare does not cover assisted senior living, financial assistance for assisted living for seniors with low income may be available through Medicaid.

Be sure to talk to your parent’s doctor about how to safely transition them to her new senior living home. For more ideas about senior living options, check out this article on the benefits of independent living communities.

Here’s more from Lively.

swipe for more

scroll or use your arrow keys for more

scroll for more

use your arrow keys for more


©2024 Best Buy. All rights reserved.