As people grow old and start planning for their retirement, one of the main questions is where they intend to live. This topic becomes even more unavoidable if one partner dies or after a medical scare. While some old adults prepare for these changes in their accommodations, they might insist on maintaining their independence. However, due to medical conditions or disabilities, living alone isn’t an option.
For other old adults, fixed income compared to increasing life expenses make it impossible to maintain their homes. These and other reasons make it necessary for old adults to move into senior living communities. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the world of senior living, especially the different types of senior living communities. The guide below can help senior adults and their loved ones decide between independent retirement communities and assisted living.
Before delving into differentiating features of these two entry-level senior living communities, it’s important to note that retirement communities and assisted living have entirely different meanings.
What are Independent Retirement Communities?
An independent retirement community is a senior living community for adults who can live independently but prefer not to for various reasons. Most senior adults living in retirement communities have financial challenges, making it impossible for them to survive. Some seniors prefer retirement communities for social interactions available in this community.
Independent retirement living communities offer an active and independent lifestyle while providing socializing opportunities for adults to interact with others of their age group and common interests. Relinquishing chores, such as meal preparation, housekeeping, and laundry, seniors can enjoy their retirement by engaging in pre-organized activities without the responsibilities of managing their homes.
Since adults in independent retirement communities are physically fit, amenities and features in these facilities are private. Adults have their living space, consisting of a full-service kitchen and a living area, which allows them to host dinners and organize communal dining.
What Does Assisted Living Entail?
Unlike retirement communities, assisted living is best for seniors who cannot live alone due to cognitive and physical disabilities. Seniors developing or diagnosed with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart conditions can also join assisted living facilities. In this setting, senior citizens have individual living space, mostly semi-private, and access to additional assistance and care when needed.
Assisted living staff are available 24/7 to help seniors with their activities of daily living, such as toileting, dressing, grooming, and moving from one place to another, mostly for doctor’s appointments. Even though additional assistance is available, assisted living residents are encouraged to strive to live independently as possible.
2. Staff Composition
Assisted living communities are not under federal or state regulations. Therefore, there are no specific rules guiding how these facilities should be staffed. However, due to the nature of their population, most established assisted living centers employ registered nurses. Small AL facilities hire part-time RNs or visiting nurses who oversee nurse assistants. Nurse assistants are certified and provide AL residents with the most care and assistance.
On the other hand, an independent retirement community rarely employs medical professionals. However, they routinely bring medical professionals to check on their residents. These communities also have security personnel who guard residents and raise an alarm in case of medical or security emergencies.
3. Cost of Living and How to Pay
Rent and everyday utilities are the main costs incurred by residents of independent retirement communities. However, retired adults living in retirement centers with additional recreational features, such as golf courses, may incur more expenses such as joining and membership fees. These facilities also charge for different meal plans and add-ons chosen by senior residents.
Like with independent living communities, assisted living facilities have a base rate system that outlines the cost of rent, utilities, and other basic services, such as housekeeping. Similarly, additional services come at extra costs. For instance, assisted living seniors who require specialized care that isn’t part of the rent contract incur additional costs of hiring professionals.
That aside, independent retirement facilities and assisted living have different methods of paying incurred costs. Residents and families of seniors in these senior communities can use different financial resources to cover their costs.
For instance, since retirement communities don’t provide medical services, Medicaid, Medicare, long-term insurance, and other programs won’t cover the incurred costs. Therefore, seniors should use private payment methods, such as their Social Security benefits, retirement savings, reverse mortgage funds, pension, and other funds to cover the costs.
On the other hand, since assisted living communities provide additional special services, residents can pay using several options. Seniors can pay for AL costs using their savings and personal funds mentioned above. They can also use long-term care insurance and Attendance benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs. Medicare still doesn’t cover AL costs, but Medicaid can offset some bills, especially low-income residents.
4. Family Involvement
While the primary decision-making depends on the senior adult, families are encouraged to participate in taking care of residents of retirement communities. Family members can always visit and use various amenities provided in the community to spend time with their loved ones.
Similarly, family members take an active role in providing care for assisted living residents, especially those diagnosed with dementia. Family members are included in the care planning of these patients to improve their overall physical and mental wellness.
5. Community Design
Most independent retirement communities have unique building designs spread out with a central meeting area for meals and programming. Living spaces may be apartments or cottages, spread to cover a large area that requires several minutes’ walk or short rides.
Assisted living facilities have a small footprint and are often self-contained. Resident’s needs are provided within their space, eliminating the need for central meeting areas. Assisted living facilities also have memory programs that assist residents. For instance, they may have enhanced visual cues, lighting, memory boxes, color coding, and clearly marked walking paths for easy navigation.
Which Option Best Suits Your Older Citizen?
Old adults shouldn’t have perfect health to opt for independent retirement communities. Similarly, you shouldn’t prefer assisted living because your senior adult has a chronic illness. This makes choosing a retirement community difficult for most people, especially during close calls. The following question can help you make a choice:
- Will your health be at risk if you stay alone at home?
- Are you healthy but just lonely?
- Do you rely on your spouse or children to address your daily needs?
- Do you have a serious chronic or terminal medical condition?
- Have doctors expressed concerns about you living alone?
- Is the cost of in-home care a heavy financial burden?
Advancing age and declining health shouldn’t be a recipe for declined quality of life. Regardless of your anticipated retirement life and arising barriers to a quality life, Riverview Retirement Community can help. Riverview offers tailored senior living options that meet senior citizens’ diverse, unique, and evolving needs..