Many senior adults define independent living as remaining in their homes for as long as possible. However, they may not be aware that the increasing number of challenges they face as they age are actually affecting their ability to live independently. Home maintenance, lawn care, medication management, and transportation become increasingly challenging. And if a senior spouse has some cognitive challenges, an increasing burden may fall to the other spouse or family caregivers.

Senior Living experts define independence as providing the support aging adults need while allowing them the freedom to enjoy the interests, and activities, that they choose.

What questions should an older adult ask before moving into an independent living community?

What Do You Want?

The first questions the senior should ask include:

  • What kind of life do I want to lead?
  • What are my interests?
  • What may be the future health/cognitive challenges I will face?

Questions When Considering a Move into an Independent Living Community

When evaluating an independent living community, consider the following:

Can the community meet my future needs?

Does it offer the services I need now and may require later? If dementia is an issue, is memory support available? It’s an important consideration if the community can offer various support options depending upon need and can accommodate a spouse who may be less able physically or cognitively while keeping the couple together.

Another plus is if the organization of which the community is part can transition its residents into assisted living and skilled nursing care when needed, eliminating a search for a new organization.

What about costs?

There are a variety of different housing and care levels available when you move to an independent living community, including continuing care retirement communities that offer a wide range of services. Most of these communities charge an entry fee, and that fee can range tremendously.

Other independent living communities provide more affordable options. It is advisable that you seek financial advice when considering your options. Independent living can be more affordable than you first realize because you have expenses as a homeowner, such as taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and cleaning costs, that you would no longer incur. Also, long-term care insurance, VA benefits, or other resources may be able to assist with the cost.

What will I gain from independent living?

Leaving a home that you have lived in for years is not easy, but independent living has a lot to offer: new community and new opportunities to make friends. You will also have privacy with 24/7 security and assistance with physical challenges and activities of daily living should they eventually occur.

(Note: Until the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many independent living communities offered activities, celebrations, trips, shopping excursions, and in-house gatherings. Depending upon the pace of vaccinations for residents and staff, these should return at a future date.)

What should I look for in a community?

A general list of questions you might ask when touring or choosing an independent living community could include:

  • Is the location desirable for you and for your family who will want to visit?
  • Can you obtain the exact level of care and service you need?
  • Does the community have an environment you would be comfortable with?
  • Are pets allowed? If so, what are the restrictions?
  • What’s on the menu in the dining room?
  • What interaction is there between staff and residents?
  • What safety and security measures are in place?
  • What does an apartment or unit look like?
  • What would I be able to bring with me from my home?
  • How easy is it to move about the community?

Begin Early

There is a lot to consider and accomplish before deciding to move into an independent living community. Enlist the help of loved ones, begin deciding what you want to take with you, fix up your home to make it more saleable, and keep asking questions until you have the answers you need.

Schedule a tour at one of Bethesda’s St. Louis-area independent retirement living communities.