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How Do I Choose an Independent Living Community?

How Do I Choose An Independing Living Community

Key Summary

The ideal Independent Living residence will provide you with activities for a fulfilling lifestyle, housekeeping services and wonderful dining options. Choose an Independent Living Community based on these offerings and your budgetary considerations.

You recognize that it’s time for you or someone you love to settle into a long and rewarding retirement, and look forward to years of fulfilling days and peaceful nights. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to move to an Independent Living Community. These properties have grown steadily in popularity in recent years and are known for providing seniors with lifestyles they love. But how do you choose an Independent Living Community? The answer is simple. You will select a new home that meets all your needs and more. Your ideal residence will provide you with customized assistance, including housekeeping, dining options, transportation services and security. Independent Living doesn’t offer specialized care, like Assisted Living does, and is instead suited to those looking for freedom to try new hobbies, socialize and live life to the fullest.

Referah is here to help you in these crucial early stages of acquiring information, so you can select the right Independent Living Community for you or your loved one.

How to Evaluate Independent Living Communities

Essential First Steps

Before we get into some of the specifics guiding your decision, let’s start with the essential starting points for your search.

Every case is different, and nobody knows more than YOU about your needs. Put together a checklist of the things you’re looking for in an Independent Living Community, including help with household chores, daily maintenance of the home, dining options, etc. For example, you might be willing to perform small tasks around the house or cook from time to time. However, those moving to Independent Living are ready to be rid of the responsibility of household chores, cleaning gutters, mowing lawns, or driving to appointments, etc.

If you need more help, including assistance with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing, eating, moving about, or using the restroom, an Assisted Living Community would be a better fit for you.

Creating an individual checklist will help you sift through possible Independent Living Communities. Additionally, you can learn more about how many seniors choose communities by reading our article “What Are the Top Benefits of Independent Living?

Questions to Ask Senior Independent Living Communities

Once you have begun to develop your checklist, you can arrange to tour communities that seem promising—and consider making follow-up tours once you’ve narrowed the list, just as you would when choosing a conventional home. It’s best to prepare a list of questions, but also be ready to ask new questions as topics arise on the spot. Questions might include:

  • How long does the average resident stay?
  • What activities and amenities are included?
  • What is the staff turnover rate?
  • Is there any pending change in ownership?
  • Is there a waiting list for an apartment?

Talk to experts in the field and friends whose loved ones enjoy Independent Living. Chances are, you or someone you’re close to has some measure of experience with this process, and you almost certainly know someone who has personal, anecdotal experience. This is an important decision, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask others for their input.

What’s Included in Independent Living?

While many other ideas may be added to your personal checklist, here are seven items that should always be considered when choosing an Independent Living Community.

Budgetary Considerations

Find a price point that suits your budget. As we mentioned earlier, your preference for various amenities and services will go a long way toward making your decision. Perhaps you’ve never been particularly interested in field trips to museums, classes from the local college, or arts and crafts, but are more inclined to attend movie nights and music performances, or play card games with a group of new friends. Maybe you’d prefer long walks to formal exercise classes. These are all things to consider that may affect your budget.

For example, let’s say you enjoy cooking but after a lifetime of doing so, you’re perfectly content letting someone else prepare the meals, or perhaps you need help with making breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In that case, it really doesn’t matter if there’s an elaborate kitchen, and it’s extremely important to find out the particulars of the dining options from community to community. However, if you still enjoy cooking, you’re going to want that kitchen! The same thing goes for pets. Obviously, pet policies are only a concern for potential residents who have a pet they are deeply attached to and are still capable of taking care of it.

And of course, the reality is, budgetary considerations stay with us no matter where we live. This is why it’s very important from the beginning of this process to learn the entire cost of a monthly stay, and what’s included in the rent: does that encompass meals, transportation, housekeeping and social programs, or are those amenities extra?

Community Engagement and Social Activities

There are a wide variety of questions to ask regarding activities and community-oriented events:

  • Is there a calendar listing the regular Independent Living events and activities one can expect monthly, weekly or even daily?
  • What activities are available and how often do they occur?
  • Can you arrange to observe one or more activities as they transpire?
  • Do the activities align with your particular interests?
  • Are family members or other loved ones allowed to participate in some activities?
  • Are clubs or religious groups available?

Housekeeping and Maintenance

Let’s be honest: we’d ALL like to live in a space where housekeeping is a thing of the past! We work hard—not only at our jobs, but when we come home in the evenings and on the weekends. At an Independent Living Community, staff are on hand to take over such maintenance, but the level of assistance can vary. You might wish to ask:

  • Are laundry services included? (Does the community wash linens, but charge extra for items of clothing and dry cleaning?)
  • How often is housekeeping provided?
  • How is trash disposal handled? Will staffers remove trash from apartments, or do you have to transport it to hallways or the curb?
  • If a plumbing or electrical emergency occurs, is there someone on hand 24/7 to handle it?

Safety Features

Are there accessibility features to help prevent falls? Is there a security system to prevent break-ins? Is there someone on site 24/7 in case of an emergency? Does the Independent Living Community have evacuation plans/drills?

Community Features

Does the community have or provide access to the following?

  • Library
  • Fitness center
  • Barber shop
  • Outdoor or indoor gardens
  • Party room
  • Hot tub or lap pool
  • Computer room

Dining Options

Dining with friends and family is often important to Independent Living residents. However, others may take care of certain meals on their own.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Can the facility handle low sodium, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian or other specialized dietary needs?
  • Are three daily meals available, or are residents responsible for preparing certain meals on their own?
  • If meals ARE included, are they served restaurant-style at community tables with a wait staff?
  • Can family and friends join community meals?


Not all residents have their own transportation and many rely on the community shuttle. Consider asking the following questions when choosing the best Independent Living Community:

  • If the potential resident is still licensed and capable of driving, does the community provide ample parking? Are there parking spaces for visitors?
  • Does the community provide rides to medical appointments and to pick up prescriptions?
  • How far will the transportation take them? 2 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles?
  • How many days a week is transportation available?
  • How far in advance do you need to book transportation?
  • Are there regular group trips and outings?
  • Are there team members on hand who have the license necessary for group transport?

Find an Independent Living Community Near You

There are many comforts of home that are not always easy to leave. However, the right Independent Living Community can provide these comforts and so much more. Experience new activities and forget about the obligations of homeownership. The Referah team looks forward to assisting you or your loved one with finding the perfect new home. Find an Independent Living Community near you, today!

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