What is the difference between Independent Living and Retirement Living?

Both independent living or “senior independent living” and retirement living or “active adult retirement” are appealing to seniors who don't yet need daily assistance, assuring a carefree and healthy living environments for years to come. While these two options may seem conceptually the same they are very different. Just what is the distinction between the two?

Independent living facilities are housing units designed specifically for seniors, often with an age limit somewhere around 65. In some of these facilities, the communal areas can be quite lavish, including recreational areas, craft rooms, game rooms, even beauty salons, dining rooms, porches, terraces, walkways and meeting rooms. Most also offer dining services and some degree of laundry or housekeeping. Many also offer scheduled entertainment, planned outings, etc.

Residents of senior independent living facilities care for themselves and live independently in a secure environment of their peers. These residents usually do not require assistance with day to day activities, but may hire a caregiver privately if the need arises.

So called active adult retirement communities are usually synonymous with 55+ retirement living. These communities can be single family homes, mobile or manufactured homes, cluster housing, condo style housing or special subdivisions. Occupants lease or purchase the residence and enjoy independent lifestyles along with their neighbors. The number of residents in these areas can be in the thousands. The communal services and communal facilities vary greatly in these retirement living communities, but do not typically include meals and the other common services offered in senior independent living facilities.