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Introduction

Seniors are living longer and more fulling lives than ever before. They garden into their eighties and nineties, join new churches and civic organizations as they approach three digits, and consistently give back to their communities. The Corporation for National and Community Service estimates that the annual value of senior volunteers is $75 billion. Retirement no longer means a transition to quiet reflection. For many seniors, this chapter of life is the most active and fulfilling yet.

It’s no wonder that most seniors say they want to remain in their homes. Today’s seniors are fiercely independent, even when they face serious health issues. Yet the determination to remain at home can actually compromise a senior’s independence. Independent living communities offer an affordable and safe alternative that preserves a senior’s independence while allowing the next chapter of life to be the most generative yet.

Download a PDF version of this guide by filling out the form below.

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Chapters

1

What is Independent Living

Independent living preserves a senior’s independence while placing them in a community of like-minded people.

2

Senior Independence: A Balancing Act

Many seniors are unaware that independent living may be a good option.

3

How Independent Living Solves the Challenges of Senior Independence

Independent living offers the perfect balance of independence and comfort.

4

The Cost of Independent Living

If you love the idea of remaining independent without being saddled with additional responsibilities, independent living could be the right choice for you.

5

How to Choose an Independent Living Community

If you’re ready to make the switch to independent living, your search can begin with a simple internet search.

6

Tips for Making the Transition

Transitions can be challenging. Remember your first day of school? Your first year of married life? Every major life change requires some planning, and it can take a while to adjust.

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Chapter 1

What is Independent Living?

Independent living preserves a senior's independence while placing them in a community of like-minded people. It balances the many competing needs of today’s seniors by offering:

  • A ready-made community that doesn’t intrude on privacy.
  • Help when a senior needs it, without compromising independence.
  • An end to the frustrations and costs of home maintenance, without an end to independence.
  • Access to transportation, classes, meals, and other amenities just outside your door.
testimonial-quote

"Independent living communities offer an affordable and safe alternative that preserves a senior’s independence while allowing the next chapter of life to be the most generative yet."

At most independent living communities, you can expect:

  • A wide range of activities, including regularly scheduled classes, fun outings, social events, and informal gatherings.
  • Delicious meals prepared to meet your dietary needs and nutritional goals.
  • An independent home where you’ll have plenty of privacy.
  • An active community life occurring just steps from your door.
  • A chance to meet other seniors who have chosen to live an active, vibrant retirement.
  • Transportation to local events and activities.
  • An end to the costs and challenges of regular home maintenance.
  • Well-maintained grounds that offer indoor and outdoor spaces to read, relax, socialize, and play.
  • Access to help when you need it. Many independent living communities have staff available 24/7. Some are also affiliated with assisted living communities that can offer you help if your needs change.

Independent living is not a nursing home or a hospital. It doesn’t mean sacrificing independence. Instead, independent living marks a shift toward a new way of thinking about life as a senior. It preserves all the good things about the next chapter—freedom, no longer having to work, a chance to learn and grow—while offering seniors a buffer against some of the frustrations of growing older.

Chapter 2

Senior Independence: A Balancing Act

Many seniors are unaware that independent living may be a good option. Others are aware of independent living, but skeptical of the costs or concerned about whether these communities can really offer independence. They see literature targeted to caregivers and start worrying that what they’re really committing to when they commit to independent living is life in a sterile facility that treats them like an “old person.”

Today’s seniors face a frustrating conundrum: Stereotypes of elders haven’t changed much. Though seniors can remain active and healthy well into their ninth and tenth decades, many people expect that seniors will be infirm, dependent, and willing to give up the lives they’ve built for themselves.

testimonial-quote

"Eighteen percent of seniors live alone, and nearly half report feeling lonely on a regular basis."

This ageism can be maddening for both seniors and their loved ones. After all, even when a senior’s body does begin to show signs of wear and tear, a senior’s desire for independence, entertainment, and growth remains intact.

Because we collectively have not addressed the challenges and demands aging presents, many seniors lead more difficult lives than necessary. Eighteen percent of seniors live alone, and nearly half report feeling lonely on a regular basis. Seniors with health issues may be especially vulnerable to loneliness. Seniors who can’t drive, who don’t want to drive at night, or who feel anxious about going out alone may spend days and even weeks in their homes without human contact or intellectual stimulation.

This loneliness is tragic, but it’s also a serious public health crisis. One recent study found that loneliness could be more deadly than obesity. Other research has shown that lonely seniors are more likely to die prematurely and more likely to report poor health.

Seniors continue to say they want to live at home—even though the research shows many seniors who make this choice are unhappy and unhealthy as a result. Seniors may mistakenly believe that a shift to independent living will compromise their independence. The reality is that seniors who move to independent living have more options, more freedom, and often better health.

Loneliness is just one challenge seniors face when they choose to age in place. Some other challenges of remaining at home include:

  • Sustaining relationships with loved ones and forming new relationships. Particularly when a senior can’t drive or only drives during the day, staying in touch with people can be a challenge.
  • Maintaining the home. Keeping a house operating smoothly requires more than just paying the mortgage. There may be a lawn or garden to tend, a leaky roof to fix, and an ever-evolving list of home maintenance tasks to manage.
  • Finding meaningful ways to spend your time. Volunteer work, classes, and outings into town all require time, money, and energy. Particularly if you live in a busy city or an isolated area, a single activity can take an entire day of planning.
  • Enjoying retirement. Whether it was at a demanding job of your own, supporting your partner’s career, or raising children, you’ve spent most of your life working to get to this point. You deserve to enjoy it. The demands of home ownership can make that difficult, particularly if you have health or mobility impairments.
  • Remaining healthy. As you age, you may need to take medications, go to doctor’s appointments, or follow up with specialists such as nutritionists. Tending to your health can feel like a full-time job. Driving yourself to appointments can be stressful and overwhelming.
  • Managing expenses. No matter how much they’ve saved for retirement, most seniors live on a fixed income. This means that unexpected expenses can throw a wrench into even the best-managed budgets. Some seniors struggle to afford home repairs. Others live reasonably comfortably, but worry about the effects of rising property taxes.
  • Feeling safe and secure in your home. Seniors face a number of safety obstacles as they age. Difficulty seeing and hearing may mean they’re less likely to notice a fire or other hazard, mobility impairments can increase the likelihood of a fall, and health issues can feel more threatening to seniors who live alone.

All of these concerns add up to a retirement that might look quite different from what you hoped. Seniors who fantasized of aging in place may find that it means feeling isolated and anxious in a home that needs more work than they’re prepared to do.

What’s a doggedly independent senior to do?

Chapter 3

How Independent Living Solves the Challenges of Senior Independence

Independent living offers the perfect balance of independence and comfort. You’re still free to do as you wish, to come and go as you please, and to live the life you’ve carved out for yourself. The only difference is that you’ll get some help and support to do it. What can seniors expect from senior living? Above all, peace of mind.

That’s thanks to:

  • A ready-made community of like-minded people. Private, introverted seniors can continue to live quietly. But those seeking friendships and a break from loneliness will find it in the form of community meals, plenty of activities, and lots of friends living nearby.
  • A chance to build relationships with loved ones. Loved ones can visit you, attend meals, and enjoy the beautiful setting you’ve chosen. Many communities also offer transportation that makes it easier than ever to see the people you love most—without the stress of driving.
  • Access to help when you need it. You don’t have to worry about falling and sitting alone. You don’t have to fear that you won’t notice a problem with your home until it’s too late.
  • A life free of the expense and stress of home maintenance. An independent living community takes care of it all for you. You get a beautiful, well-maintained home, and you never again have to worry about the unexpected expense of a leaky roof or moldy basement.
  • Access to nutritious, delicious meals without the hassles of meal preparation and shopping.

Independent living removes the barriers to life at home, while addressing the issues seniors living alone commonly face. It’s like living at home, but better.

Chapter 4

The Cost of Independent Living

If you love the idea of remaining independent without being saddled with additional responsibilities, independent living could be the right choice for you. Many seniors, however, worry about costs. After all, if you’re living on a fixed income, the last thing you want to do is take on more expenses—particularly if you’re giving up your home.

Independent living may be more affordable than you think. You’re not paying for 24/7 nursing or other expenses associated with assisted living and other senior living arrangements. This means independent living is an affordable option for most budgets. Consider also that you’ll no longer have expenses such as a mortgage, property taxes, home maintenance, cleaning costs, and other drains on your resources. If you sell your home, you’ll also have quite a bit of cash available to help you fund your next chapter of life.

testimonial-quote

"Independent living may be more affordable than you think."

How much can you expect to pay for independent living? Our cost calculator helps you assess whether independent living is a costeffective option.

You may also be able to use long-term care insurance, employee retirement insurance, VA benefits, or another program to help fund the costs. For most seniors, independent living is a realizable goal. If you need help addressing funding issues, we offer comprehensive financial information to help you explore your options.

Chapter 5

How to Choose an Independent Living Community

If you’re ready to make the switch to independent living, your search can begin with a simple internet search. Another option is to ask a friend in independent living about their experiences, or to get your kids to widen the search by asking for recommendations.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to visit a few communities. These tips can help you get the most out of your visit:

  • Eat a meal while you’re there so you can decide whether the food meets your standards.
  • Go during mealtime or a community activity. More people will be active then, allowing you to see how community life looks.
  • Ask yourself if you feel comfortable there. Do the residents look like you? Do they share your values and lifestyle?
  • Make a list of the activities you’d like to pursue over the next few years, then choose a community that offers them.
  • Talk with the staff to see whether they’re people you trust and like.
  • Walk around the community. Don’t just look at a single residence. Explore common areas and classrooms. Do they feel comfortable and safe? Do they suggest a vibrant, active community life?
testimonial-quote

"If you’re ready to make the switch to independent living, your search can begin with a simple internet search."

A few questions can help you learn more about whether the community you’ve chosen is right for you. Ask a staff member or consultant:

  • What activities are available? How many classes are available each day or week?
  • What transportation options are available? Do I have to schedule transportation in advance?
  • Is the unit I’m viewing a basic unit, or are there additional costs for its amenities?
  • Which meal plans are available?
  • How many people live here?
  • Is there any additional support if I have health challenges?
  • What can I bring?
  • What is the general personality of residents? What do people say they like most about this community?
  • What safety measures are in place? Does each unit have a smoke detector? Is access restricted during certain hours?

Chapter 6

Tips for Making the Transition

Transitions can be challenging. Remember your first day of school? Your first year of married life? Every major life change requires some planning, and it can take a while to adjust. The move to independent living is no different. Some strategies that can make the transition a little easier include:

  • Taking your time. Don’t wait for a crisis. Give yourself several months to find a community and to then make the transition. You might even want to move slowly over the course of several weeks.
  • Enlisting the assistance of loved ones. Your friends and family can help you prepare for the move. They may also offer insight into strategies that might make the transition a little easier.
  • Putting up a few sentimental items—a photo of your wedding day, a few family heirlooms, or a beloved plant. You might love your new home, but moving away from your old place can still be hard. Items that have emotional value can make it a little easier.
  • Getting rid of things you don’t need. You’ll probably have less space at your new home. That’s a good thing. It means less clutter and less worry. Invest in a storage space if you must, but consider getting rid of non-essential possessions.
  • Getting to know a few residents before you move. Meet them for lunch or an activity. This way you know you have a few friends waiting for you.
  • Scheduling lots of visits with loved ones in the early weeks. Remember what it was like to make new friends at school. Independent living can feel much the same. Make the transition easier by spending time with loved ones as you make new friends.
  • Investing in new furniture. Taking some time to make your home into a place you love can help it feel more “you.”

The home you’ve invested so much time in may have become little more than a burden. And don’t you deserve some relief from stress? Independent living may be the path forward. If you’re ready to explore your options, Arbor is here to help.

Download a PDF version of this guide

Download a PDF version of this guide by filling out the form below.

Arbor-Ebook-Everything-You-Need-To-Know-About-Independent-Living-Rev-01.22.18_JR-1.jpg