More than ever before, America's active older adults are seeking new housing choices. Commonly referred to as congregate living, senior apartments, or retirement communities, independent living (IL) options are designed for seniors who are able to live on their own, but desire the security and conveniences of community living. They are a good choice for older adults who are looking for ways to enjoy the company of friends in a setting that supports independence as they grow older and where they are able to "age in place." Some facilities offer organized social and recreational programs as a part of everyday activities, while others provide housing with only a minimal amount of amenities or services.
Independent living communities developed in the early 1970s as an alternative to nursing home living for older adults who needed support, but did not need nursing home level care. The movement grew, and today seniors have many more housing options than ever before that meet a wide range of income and support level requirements. Philosophically, supportive housing arrangements recognize the importance of dignity, autonomy, and choice for their residents.
Independent living facilities may offer housekeeping services, laundry facilities, linen service, meals or access to meals, local transportation, and planned social activities. Some facilities may even offer amenities such as swimming pool/spas, exercise facilities, community lounges, and reading rooms. Health care is generally not provided, but many facilities allow a home health aide or nurse to come into an apartment to assist with medicines and personal care.
For more background on the concept of "aging in place" and independent living, we have posted a fact sheet from AARP's Public Policy Institute. Click here to dowload the PDF.
For more in-depth information, AARP also provides a toolkit for housing older adults that they developed with the Center for Housing Policy.
Hebrew SeniorLife was a pioneer in development of independent senior supportive housing and sponsors five sites in Revere, Randolph and Brookline, as well as two continuing care retirement communities in Canton and Dedham Massachusetts.