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Seniors may start feeling the effects of aging, but value their independence and capacity to do the majority of their daily living tasks on their own. Independent living centers offer support when needed, but keep supervision at a minimum so that seniors can continue thriving on their own while enjoying the social and leisurely amenities with their peers.

In this article, we will review frequently-asked questions about what independent living is and provide detailed answers that will help seniors straddling the fence so that they can make an educated decision when they make their leap into independent living.


Independent living is a form of residential living that offers personal support when needed but keeps supervision at a minimum so seniors can continue living their best, independent lives. If you think about it, independent living sits between private resident living (in your own home) and assisted living.

In assisted living, seniors have access to both medical and personal support services. In independent living, seniors can access personal support services if needed such as daily meals, landscaping, housekeeping, and community errands but only if they really need it. Residents in independent living generally have a lot of freedom in choosing what services they use or don’t use to optimize their leisure time during their retirement years.

The admissions process varies depending on your location and the facility you wish to reside in. Prospective residents typically fill out an application form and participate in an interview as well as a needs assessment.

The needs assessment may cover current health status to see if you are a good fit and meet the requirements to live in an independent living facility. For subsidized senior housing, the needs assessment may explore the prospective resident’s current financial situation.

For seniors who apply and wish to round out their information during the interview, they may consult with their current healthcare providers or case managers who could provide further insight about their living situation and their medical and personal needs.

Since independent living does not employ the use of medical services or personal support services for basic ADLs like bathing, toileting, dressing, and hygiene, seniors will find that it’s the least expensive of all types of long-term senior living. Depending on where you live and the amenities available, monthly costs vary between $2,000-3,000. Since many seniors live on a fixed income, lower monthly costs are a high priority.

Since independent living does not offer healthcare services or CNA services for self-care, monthly costs are not covered by Medicare or other medical insurance policies. Seniors are usually expected to pay monthly fees privately through their own means.

For seniors who have a lower income, subsidized senior housing is available throughout the United States. The HUD resources website offers current locations of senior subsidized housing to simplify your search.

Residents can also pay for independent living through other means, such as liquidating assets and tapping into retirement plans. However, seniors who want to create a financially feasible payment plan for independent living should consult with a financial specialist.

Seniors can enjoy their independence and lifestyle with very little support and supervision. However, if there comes a time when services are needed, the following may be available depending on the location:

  • Social services: assigned a case manager if needed
  • Social events and leisurely activities
  • Transportation: patients can also drive their own car if feasible
  • Support and concierge services: community errands, walking the dog, etc.
  • Dining services: home cooked meals in a designated dining area or in-home meal deliveries
  • Housekeeping services and maintenance

Seniors who make excellent candidates for independent living can complete their own self-care activities safely and independently, but may be feeling the effects of more complicated tasks like cooking, housecleaning, yardwork, and home maintenance. Independent living frees up seniors’ time so they can enjoy leisurely activities without the hassle of complex, necessary activities.

Additional amenities and services will depend on the independent living agency, the location, and access to luxury activities or events. High-end independent living centers may have amenities such as fitness centers, yoga studios, spas and saunas, tennis courts, golf courses, and event centers.

Amenities generally revolve around the goal to increase social participation and opportunities so that residents can make friends and enjoy their retirement with others. Of course, seniors who don’t wish to socialize with others may do so and participate in independent leisurely activities.

Some independent living centers may be closely located to or on the same campus as other residential care facilities such as assisted living or memory care. Seniors should consider this option if they are concerned about their health deteriorating in the future and the need for quick access and transition to other care units with appropriate personal and medical services available.

For the most part, staff members are relatively hands-off and let residents go about their day as unstructured as they want. In some cases, residents may have a case manager appointed for them to assist with complex daily tasks such as community navigation, errands, financial management, and housekeeping.

If requested as part of their contract, some residents have access to regular housekeeping services and maintenance work. Some independent living centers provide a dining hall which is fully staffed with licensed cooks and nutritional specialists, but residents are welcome to complete their own grocery shopping and meal preparation tasks if desired.

Since it’s considered a new place of residence, individuals are expected to move in many of their personal belongings to establish their personal space. However, there may be some limitations on what belongings you can bring in.

If you are moving in from a larger home with many personal items and are moving into a smaller apartment, you may be expected to downsize simply because there isn’t enough room. Some items may also be prohibited, so it is important to read the facility’s policy so you can better prepare yourself for moving day.

For many seniors, it can be very tricky to determine the proper time frame to transition from home to independent living. Like mentioned previously, seniors who reside in independent living centers are still very self-sustaining. Here are a few reasons many seniors consider making the jump:

  • It’s become tiresome or challenging to complete complex tasks: yard work, housecleaning, home maintenance, cooking or meal preparation, community errands, etc.
  • Family members or friends aren’t available to assist with these activities
  • Seniors want to spend their retirement days having fun and socializing with others in their peer group.

Let’s take a look at the following scenario:

Tabitha and her husband James are a retired couple in their 70’s. Most of their children and grandchildren live out of state, and many of their friends are moving into retirement communities. Although both Tabitha and James are fiercely independent, arthritis and fatigue make it challenging to complete certain tasks at home. Tabitha has resorted to preparing microwave meals and James hasn’t touched the yard in three years. The couple has been going back and forth about alternative housing, but don’t like how expensive retirement communities are. So, they start considering their options in independent living.

There are also seniors who may be in a tighter bind than James and Tabitha, such as Gregory:

Gregory is a war veteran with debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Although he can manage his own self-care tasks, he struggles with managing a home and his finances. In the last 5 years, he has been homeless on a number of occasions and struggles to maintain a steady job due to his mental illness. Gregory works with a case manager to get into senior subsidized housing with an independent living agency. The case manager helps Gregory with arranging housekeeping services and assists him with his finances so he can meet his monthly expenses. The case manager also frequently arranges transportation and supervises Gregory on community errands so he can provide for himself and attend doctor appointments.

These days, there are so many independent living options available to seniors who are seeking alternative residences. So, here are a few questions that would be beneficial to keep in mind during your search:

  • What are the meals like?
  • What amenities are available?
  • Can I afford the monthly payments?
  • Can I afford the increase in monthly fees if I need additional support such as meals or housekeeping?
  • What social gatherings and activities are available?
    Is the independent living center on the same campus as other long-term residential facilities in the event that my health status changes?
  • What is the visitation policy?
  • What are leasing contracts like?
  • How do I access case manager services?
  • Can I drive and park my own car?
  • What are transportation services like?
  • What is security like?
  • Can I tour the center before committing to a contract?
  • Is the center handicap accessible?

Transitioning to an independent living residence can be overwhelming at first because you may feel like you are uprooting everything in your life. Talk to friends and family about their experiences with independent living. Arrange a tour of several facilities. Assess your finances and honestly determine what you can afford. Independent living can be the perfect way to spend your retirement and optimize your health and lifestyle.

Words From Our Clients

Ron Ziebell
Ron Ziebell
November 1, 2021.
Second home did a great job of searching for several months for me. My mom‘s budget was pretty low but they searched and searched and finally found her a place although it was quite a ways outside of our area we were still very happy we found a place for her. Although it didn’t work out my brother and I increased her budget and I needed a new place in a hurry and second home found a place in Long Beach close to us that lowered their rates to meet our new budget. We are extremely happy with the new assistant living place she’s at with the memory care unit she needed desperately. Thank you guys for all your hard work! Ron Ziebell
Mike Grant
Mike Grant
August 12, 2021.
Second Home helped me with Alzheimer's care placement of my Father who just couldn't live safely at home with my Mother. Speaking with Erika put my mind at ease at making this tough decision as I never thought I would need to move my Father to a facility. She compared herself to a real estate agent, but for seniors, which is completely true! She guided me on different options and rates and even set me up with tours the very next day. I was always in the loop and she checked in with me each day to see how things were going/if I had any questions. Highly recommend Second Home!
Linda Koire
Linda Koire
August 1, 2021.
Second Home is and has been the most reliable business I have ever worked with. I got acquainted with them several years ago when I was searching for an assisted living facility for my brother. The compassion they showed, the knowledge they had of the industry was overwhelming. That was approximately ten years ago and my brother resides at the facility they recommended to this day. Just two weeks ago my 93 year old mother needed to be relocated as her condition worsened. I reached out to Second Home again, (??) in hopes they could help. Once again, in a matter of a few days Mike was able to locate the perfect place for Mom considering her current condition and my issue was solved! ♥️ Thank u, thank u to all the wonderful caring team at Second Home! Sincerely, Linda Koire Ojai, CA.
Neal Kerr
Neal Kerr
May 22, 2021.
I just want to say thank you to mike and his team for helping my family get my grandmother into an amazing home. We appreciate you all so much.
Heather Cohen
Heather Cohen
April 17, 2021.
This is the go-to resource for your senior loved ones housing. The company is professional and reliable. They develop a relationship with their clients that allows them to understand your needs and what your looking for in your budget! I was so happy I went with Second Home!
Amanda Joy Gilbert
Amanda Joy Gilbert
April 17, 2021.
I am so grateful for Second Homes! I am so stressed out with circumstances and they were so helpful. They had showed me so many resources and helped guide me to what would work beat for our family. My grandmother is now in a beautiful place. Thank you again Second Homes Seniors!
Linda Flores
Linda Flores
November 16, 2020.
I started looking for a care home for my mom on my own in the Torrance are of California. It was quite daunting since there is no comprehensive lists of care homes anywhere. A friend happened to provide me Justin's number so I called him, not really realizing what he did. Second Home has listings of care homes and can help you find the right one. This was a real godsend to me. I gave him mom's history, my price range and I had a list of 8 homes to contact within 24 hours. Plus I got other emails directly from other care homes. We interviewed 6, went to 4 and we then finalized our pick. Mom has been in her new home now for 2 weeks and is starting to thrive. Coming from a nursing home environment that treated her like a number, she is now in a home with only a few other residents and getting lots of attention. She lost 20 pounds at the nursing home. Now that she is in a real home that cooks homemade meals, her appetite has come back and she is looking and doing great and is positive about the future. This was the best thing we ever did for her and I could not have done it without Second Home. I am forever grateful for their help finding a wonderful home for my mother.
pearl laraneta
pearl laraneta
November 12, 2019.
First of all Justin Acuna is the best! My father is currently living with us, he is 88 years old! Justin calls me every couple of months to check in on us! I feel relieved and secure should anything change I can call Justin and he will help place my father into a wonderful, loving home. Thank for being there!
luz romero
luz romero
October 25, 2019.
Justin and the Second Home team were so supportive in assisting with finding the most suitable home for my mother. They were in constant contact with us during the home visits and selection process. Their compassion and professionalism is very much appreciated.
michelle wentz
michelle wentz
January 14, 2018.
Very helpful navigating a very difficult time. Our questions were answered honestly and thoroughly and with compassion and understanding. Defiantly recommend them for a great source of wealth and information.