Independent Living vs Active Living—Which is Best?

Independent Living vs Active Living—Which is Best? retired elderly people and free time, group of happy senior african american and caucasian male friends talking and sitting on bench in park

We'll let you in on a secret: there is no "best" senior living option. The only option that's best is the one that works for your family's unique situation! When your family has an active older adult who wants to live in a community, you may be wondering what senior housing options are ideal.

If you or a senior loved one is active and requires no help with activities of daily living (ADLs), then an independent living community or active retirement community could be the right choice.

Independent Living Communities

Independent living for seniors is just what it sounds like: an age-restricted community that serves only older adults. Each community can look different, however. Independent living facilities can be single-family homes, one and two-bedroom apartments, condos, studios, or even part of a continuing care retirement community.

Additionally, each community offers different amenities and services. Typically, though, independent living residents can enjoy the following:

  • Meal plans
  • Landscaping services
  • On-site access to third-party health care services
  • Community activities
  • Wellness groups and services
  • Religious services

Many communities may also offer some assistance with medication management, although not all do, and most will not offer further medical assistance than that, as someone needing a higher level of care would be better suited to assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing communities.

Active Adult Communities

Active adult communities are senior living communities that foster an active lifestyle through regularly scheduled wellness and social activities and a shared living space. At our own active adult community, Summerville of St. Andrew's, residents can enjoy our:

  • Fitness center
  • Fully stocked fishing lake
  • Outdoor fire and BBQ pits
  • Bocce ball court
  • Clubhouses and guest suites
  • Vibrant gardens
  • Outdoor cycling/walking paths

Which is Better?

Both communities are great options for older adults who want to relieve themselves of homeownership and home maintenance responsibilities.

These communities distinguish themselves in the level of care they provide. Independent living communities are simply for older adults who want to live with older adults. Active living communities actively encourage older adults to get up, move, and engage with others, providing a more hands-on approach to community engagement. In other words, those wanting a more hands-on, involved experience may prefer active adult communities. Older adults who want some housekeeping assistance but want a more relaxed and hands-off approach to retirement may prefer independent living.

Neither type of community is ideal for someone with full-time medical care needs or who requires the services of a caregiver. In these cases, the following options may be a better fit (and can give families peace of mind that their loved one's needs are met):

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