Retirement is something most people look forward to for years. Trips abroad, seeing the country, rediscovering hobbies and reawakening passions long submerged during the childrearing and working years is a vivid image for many.
Once you retire, however, things might not go as hoped or planned. The household chores and maintenance that kept you busy all those years haven’t gone away, and sometimes they’ve become harder to do. A bigger portion of your budget goes toward hired services, such as lawn care. Those costs and the cost of upkeep for your home can then limit your travel plans.
It’s not always that way for everyone, of course, and as the expression goes, your mileage may vary. But eliminating this upkeep of a house and the associated costs are just some of the many reasons people move to independent living communities.
What is an independent living community?
Independent living communities, also known as retirement communities, are senior living neighborhoods designed especially for older adults. They are a good option for folks in their sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond who want to spend more time living and less time doing, as in handling the burdens of home ownership.
But wait, you say. Aren’t these communities expensive? Not if you define “expensive” as costing more than it’s really worth. In fact, once you consider all you get when you move to independent living, you might consider it a best buy.
How much does independent living actually cost?
Retirement communities vary widely in terms of cost, which can range from $2,000 to $5,000 or more a month. A number of factors determine what you pay.
Type of community. A stand-alone community, for example, might offer fewer features and amenities but be more affordable. Many are priced similarly to a typical apartment in the area. An independent living community located on the campus of a continuing care community, however, will likely come with more services and amenities, which may result in a higher price tag.
Geography. Where you live also matters. Major metropolitan areas typically have multiple senior living options but a higher cost of living. That translates to higher monthly fees. Rates will be higher in the more desirable neighborhoods. Size matters, too. Square footage will influence the monthly fee.
What’s important to remember is that the services provided by an independent living community come at a cost that is actually a bargain when you consider what it could cost to purchase services separately. Lawn care, upkeep, housekeeping—these costs can add up quickly. For example, hiring a home health aide and homemaker services in 2020 cost on average more than $9,000 per month.
Beyond the abode: the perks of independent living
Whatever your budget, chances are there is an independent living community that meets your needs. And with any option, you get so much more than a dwelling:
- Active, engaged lifestyle
Moving to an independent living community can significantly improve older adults’ quality of life. Residents in these communities are often close in age and share similar interests with their neighbors.
Communities also offer both formal and informal opportunities for connecting. A morning cup of coffee and conversation in the lounge or garden is a great way to start the day. Joining friends for restaurant-style lunch or dinner makes mealtime more enjoyable and meaningful. Onsite fitness classes build not just strength and flexibility but social connections. And playing a game of cards in the den can end the day with a smile. There’s no shortage of activities to dive into. (In fact, you may find you have too much to do, but in a good way.)
- Healthy meal options
Older adults sometimes say their relationship with food has changed with age—not just eating but cooking as well. That’s understandable when you consider that some medications decrease appetite and special diets limit options. Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease also play a part. Take out the salt and sugar, and suddenly food becomes less interesting.
Most independent living communities are aware of this and offer a variety of healthy meal options that still please the palate. Some communities accommodate restricted diets. For those who love to cook or make their own food for health reasons, some offer a kitchen or kitchenette in each apartment to give the home chef a culinary playground.
- Worry-free living
One aspect of independent living communities that cannot be overstated is the convenience factor. There are team members to take care of chores, such as housekeeping, maintenance, snow removal and lawn care. Because safety is often a concern—especially as people age and walking becomes more difficult—residences are designed with the needs of older adults in mind, such as handrails, grab bars, emergency call systems and good lighting. If a medical emergency does occur, there are systems in place to summon help.
Ready to take a look?
Moving to an independent living community is much more than a real estate decision. It’s a quality of life decision. The programs, services and amenities these communities offer can take away the worry and add a lot of joy—not a bad tradeoff.
Thinking about a move to independent living? Check out Five Star Senior Living. We can arrange an in-person or virtual tour at your convenience. It’s the best way to look around and have your questions answered. Find out if there’s a Five Star community near you.
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