What’s the difference between independent living and assisted living? When this question arises in a conversation, it may be a sign that someone is stuck between “what was” and “what is.”  There is a basic answer to this question, and it has to do with independence. Independence holds a lot of weight with most older adults. If an adult child is asking this question with a parent in mind rather than the parent themselves, it is likely the parent has already lost some independence.

Certain triggers, such as isolation and safety, cause adult children to become concerned. Children often struggle with seeing their parents how they are today versus who they were in previous years. Parents strive to keep their children from knowing too much so they can, at all costs, maintain their independence. Others who are on their own feel pressured to be independent because they don’t have anyone to care for them.

This is a “no-win” situation and keeps everyone up at night. If one could predict the future of our finances and health, it would make decisions easier; but we all know that we can’t accurately foresee what’s to come. Since that is the case, we must decipher many twists and turns as they arise in our lives, and learn about the choices available as we face the realities of the aging process. One choice available is making a move to an independent living or assisted living community. But how do we know what each of those choices is all about and which one offers the solutions that we seek?

Evaluate “What Is”

To help define assisted living and independent living, we need to consider a few things. Because assisted living can vary from state to state and community to community, there is no one definition. In general, it’s a form of residential living that provides assistance with activities of daily living for residents. That is a broad description but, because states take varying approaches in establishing standards, there are a lot of variations.

One thing that usually sets assisted living apart from independent living is that 24-hour supervision is on-site, in the form of caregivers or nurses, since a resident may require immediate assistance due to the status of their health. If you or a loved one is currently unable to navigate the daily tasks required to function successfully and safely, physically or cognitively, then assisted living is a good match. Unfortunately, when that time comes, most older adults are not able to make that decision or move on their own. It’s hard to see oneself or a parent as “what is.” We all look in a mirror and see someone many years younger and more capable—the “what was.”

That is what makes it so hard to know when the time is right for a conversation about needs with a loved one or when to make a proactive decision for yourself. Doesn’t it seem better to act on our choices while we can control the process without assistance from loved ones? That brings us to independent living.

Staying In Control

Independent living is a term designed to encompass the idea that residents live successfully on their own, just like we do in our current private homes. So why move? One big reason, since we established that we cannot predict the future, is that a move to independent living sets one up for taking care of any unexpected needs that arise with the process of aging, such as one-level living, meal preparation, housekeeping that includes linen service, or transportation.

Independent living, such as what’s offered at Woodlands, provides many amenities and services designed to offer a solution to those needs and more. Staying in control of one’s decisions means not waiting, because communities usually have requirements for residency. Waiting may mean that health changes occur and the option for independent living is no longer on the table.

Independent living is available in a much wider variety of home styles and contract types than found in assisted living. At Woodlands we offer LifeCare, which means independent living is provided with a contract that guarantees future health care at predictable costs to help preserve one’s assets. A move directly into assisted living is an option for those that have waited too long, but the costs (and care received) are much higher.

Want vs. Need

Choosing between assisted living or independent living isn’t just a matter of cost. Those proactive older adults wanting a continued quality of life that is stress-free, active, and engaged, will find that independent living is the right fit. If you are an adult child and see your parent as needing something, it likely is best to start with a call or visit to an assisted living provider near you. Chances are that if you are seeing things as they are, it’s never too soon to start that conversation with your loved one to discuss getting the support they need to be safe and secure and allow you to live free from worry.

Independent living comes in all shapes and sizes and at Woodlands, no matter where you live on campus, you’ll have access to a myriad of activities, conveniences, and the peace of mind of a continuum of care as health needs may arise. This lifestyle supports a full, active life without the burdens of home ownership and the hassles of maintenance. Imagine time to do more of what you enjoy, with new and old friends, such as travel, dining, or fitness. Time to enjoy whatever your passion is that may take a back seat to other responsibilities. Be forward-thinking, act while the decision is yours, and make your life full, with less worry and stress.

Benefits of Both

While many differences are found when comparing assisted living to independent living, those researching the topic will find that there are some similarities from which residents of either will benefit. Research has shown the detrimental effect that isolation has on a person. Even couples residing together can be lonely and be suffering the effects of isolation. Living in a community, such as Woodlands, means you’re surrounded with the opportunity to meet and engage with interesting people, both residents and staff. Another similarity is that you know if needs change, they can be met through the support services offered at most retirement communities. At Woodlands, a licensed full-time social worker is available to help residents and their families when those needs change.

One of the best things about retirement community living is getting well-balanced meals with lots of choices. Even for those who love cooking, it’s nice to have a meal prepared by someone else, and enjoyed with friends, all just a short walk away. The dining experience also becomes an opportunity to socialize with other residents, in addition to the nutritional benefits. At Woodlands, dining is enjoyed in a variety of venues, including a casual-fare bistro and a larger dining room with panoramic views of the mountains.

Independent living or assisted living at Woodlands both offer stress-free living. Deciding what’s right for the situation is not something to be rushed and requires thoughtful research that is ideally done when not in crisis. If looking for yourself, no matter where you choose to live, seeing things as “what is,” not as “what was,” is the first step in maintaining your independence, while it is still a choice. If concerns about a family member are starting to be a worry, then it’s time to start a conversation about the options available for them based on their needs. Either way, don’t wait.

Plan your visit now by contacting Juliette at 304-697-1620 and learn how life at Woodlands can enhance your independence, not take it away.

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