Independent living involves housing for seniors that don’t require assistance. In other words, “independence” means you don’t need support. The most common form of independent living is “aging in place.” Aging in place is not really a “type” of senior housing; it’s more a statement of fact. It’s a scenario where a senior has lived in their home or apartment for many years and chooses to stay.
Aging in place is the default option for seniors. It is quickly becoming one of the most recognized independent living options for seniors. We cover it in detail here. However, in this article, we discuss a high-level “definition” of independent living. It will help you when you’re in the market for independent senior living options.
Legal “Senior” Independent Living Options
Some communities qualify legally as senior communities. However, they must meet specific legal requirements. Within these communities, different facilities target different types of independent seniors. For example, some target super active seionrs, others target the less active.
Legally Qualifying Independent Living Options
Another category of independent living communities are those that actually legally qualify as a senior community. The Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) of 1995 is a law that allows a qualifying housing facility to essentially age discriminate against certain classes or renters or buyers. For example, if the following criteria is met, discrimination is allowed.
In addition, a properly categorized senior housing community adhering to legal requirements has the following characteristics:
Types of Legally Qualifying Independent Living Options
A legally defined senior community often falls into three general categories: seriously active adult communities, communities designed for and inviting of all, and those in between. Although they are all independent living options, they have differing views of what happens when you’re not so independent. Here’s why that matters.
Active Adult Communities
Some active adult communities are not interested in seniors with mobility issues. If you’re healthy, you may not think twice about that statement. But almost every Ager will confront mobility issues.
If the community doesn’t have lots of sidewalks or ramps, they are sending a message. Additionally, many super active adult communities do not have community groups that focus on helping seniors get to medical appointments when they’re ill. If a community doesn’t organize to assist the infirmed and doesn’t create easy ways for those with mobility issues to get around, they aren’t interested in anyone but the truly active.
For these communities, here’s the biggest rub. If you get very sick or very injured, you may have a long recovery period. Maybe a child or grandchild wants to move in to help. In some active adult communities, the terms and conditions prohibit this option or limit it to 90 days a year.
Legally Qualifying Independent Living Communities That Do More
On the other extreme are those adult communities that lead with their community services. They support widows and single seniors. Also, they have groups that transport the ill and immobile to medical appointments. They also have volunteers that can help bring you groceries and prescriptions when you can’t get out.
Legally Qualifying Independent Living Communities In Between
Between these extremes are communities that offer a bit of both. They may not cater to the ill and immobile, but they have sidewalks and supportive community members.
Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities
Finally, a fortuitous subset of independent living comes with special access to assistance. They are called Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities or NORCs. NORCs are the historical residue of densely packed areas whose residents have grown old. In other words, these aging residents are aging in place. However, because of their density, the government is able to target assistance. For example, many NORCs have government facilities or programs in the NORC. We cover these in detail here.
Marketing Ploys & Toys
It is not uncommon for seniors to be in apartment complexes that label themselves “Senior Apartments” or “Senior Residences.” Some even offer services like transportation and organized activities. Most of the time these names are simply marketing gestures. Because the independent living options targeting seniors are so vague, it’s buyer beware. You need to investigate what’s being offered and whether these offerings are guaranteed or periodic efforts to help fill up vacancies.
Not all marketing gestures are bad. Sometimes they translate into things that may be important to seniors like:
Other Reosurces On Indpendent Living
The National Institute on Aging discusses independent living here.
Here’s an interesting article for independent senior living here.