Choosing between assisted living and an independent living community is a big decision for aging seniors and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be made with haste. Unfortunately, the close similarities between the two types of care often leads to confusion, making the decision even more difficult. Understanding the differences between the two is the key to a quick and painless process.


Assisted Living

Seniors that struggle to live on their own at home sometimes choose to live in assisted living communities. These facilities feel similar to independent living yet make life much easier on those who have trouble completing certain daily activities, such as:

  • Preparing meals
  • Bathing
  • Dressing and undressing
  • Cleaning

Assisted living communities provide this type of assistance to residents whenever it is needed while allowing the residents as much freedom and independence as possible. Assisted living facilities also tend to place an emphasis on social activities. Many of these facilities provide numerous social activities each week in addition to amenities (ex. gym, library, and movie theater). Group trips outside of the living area are also frequently planned, such as shopping ventures or trips to the movies. Seniors that choose assisted living often require at least some daily assistance; some even use assisted living as a transition to full-time care as health conditions worsen.


Independent Living

In many ways, independent living communities are nearly identical to assisted living communities. In fact, they are often combined into a single facility with residents living side by side. Thy typically offer services and amenities similar to assisted living.

The major difference relates directly to the ability of seniors to provide for all of their own needs. Those in independent living communities are able to live alone without any problems and require little to no assistance. Some seniors might choose to live in an independent living community rather than home because they provide convenient access to dining, entertainment, medical care, and social activities.


Making the Decision

Both facilities are so similar that it can be hard for some people to make the decision between the two. The best way to answer the question is by looking at the individual needs.

  • If you are a senior: Do you have any serious problems with any of your daily activities? Do you struggle with daily cooking, cleaning, bathing, or dressing?
  • If you are a loved one: Have noticed changes in diet or hygiene? Is your loved one struggling to keep up with house chores? Are they feeling lonely or isolated?

If there’s trouble with any of the things mentioned above then an assisted living community is likely the best choice. If there’s no trouble with these activities but would still like convenient access to dining, entertainment, and medical care, then you might be better off selecting an independent living community.


Both assisted living and independent living communities are great for seniors. Though each place is unique and provides for a different set of needs, they both give all of the care that their residents need. Before making a decision for yourself or a loved one, it is important to look at and understand the differences.



Learn more about assisted living and other healthcare options at the main Assisted Living page or the main Caregiving page.

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About the Author: Victoria K. Stickley is a copywriter, editor, and senior content manager based in the Dallas area. Her graduate education in counseling and research has helped immensely in her writing as well as the care she provides for her grandparents. She currently provides support and resources to senior care websites as she learns and experiences senior care first-hand.