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What’s the difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

By Millie Hizer

During the past twenty years, retirement options for senior citizens have greatly expanded. From independent living communities to assisted living facilities, retirees are able to choose the lifestyle that best fits their needs. However, the differences between independent living and assisted living can oftentimes be misunderstood. So what are the factors that distinguish these various retirement options?

Typically, independent living is designed for retirees aged 55 and older who are able to safely live on their own and are looking to live in a community atmosphere. Sharon Behnke is the Director of Bob Hope Village, an independent living community primarily designed to service retired enlisted Air Force widows, as well as retired military couples. She explains, “Residents of Bob Hope Village come and go as they please. Many drive, but for those who don’t, we offer transportation services.”

Another key factor in deciding whether a retiree would be more comfortable in independent living or assisted living is their ability to independently manage their own medical needs. Behnke notes, “The biggest difference between independent living and assisted living would have to be the number of staff members needed. In the near future, we will have 5 staff members looking after roughly 500 residents, whereas in assisted living there is a much more individualized element of care. ”

The role of staff members in an independent living community also differs from the role of staff members in an assisted living community. For instance, in an Independent living community, staff members plan activities such as golf tournaments, luaus, and trips to the grocery. The goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable retirement experience while still allowing capable retirees to live an independent lifestyle.

While the benefits of residing in an independent living community are numerous, many elderly citizens need a more advanced level of care. In an assisted living facility, staff members provide care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and focus on making sure residents are able to safely perform daily tasks.

Leigh J. Rice is the Administrator of Hawthorn House, an assisted living facility located on the grounds of Bob Hope Village. Rice explains, “In assisted living we help assist people with doing daily living activities such as walking, taking their medications, and using the restroom. We also provide and plate three meals a day, as well as snacks, and make sure our residents are receiving proper nutrition.”

Many times, individuals who choose to retire in an independent living community eventually move into assisted living. Rice further elaborates, “About half of our residents at Hawthorn House have come from either Bob Hope Village or Teresa Village, both independent living communities.”

Ultimately, deciding whether a person should choose independent living or assisted living is something that requires careful consideration. It might not always be an easy choice, but more accurate information provided to retirees and their families can help make the decision easier.

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