Our Blog:
Sharing new thoughts on aging.

Assisted Living vs. Independent Living: What are the differences?

You and Your Aging Parents

In the fall of 2012, Hebrew SeniorLife gathered together geriatric thought-leaders, researchers and physicians for our inaugural "You and Your Aging Parents" program, an important discussion about the steps one should take to help aging parents as they make decisions regarding health and well-being. Overwhelmingly positive response indicates the need for this information and Hebrew SeniorLife continues to offer this program. Check our events listing for upcoming events. 

In addition, we published expert advice from the first program in an ebook, You and Your Aging Parents,” which Hebrew SeniorLife is offering as a free downloadable pdf. The discussion also inspired our “You and Your Aging Parents” blog series, a series that includes this blog post and covers the various issues and concerns you may encounter as you and your parent/s continue on the journey of aging.

How does independent living differ from assisted living?

Independent living and assisted living are wonderful options that have both similarities and differences.  Independent senior living communities address the social needs of senior residents, with central communal areas and on-site supportive services to encourage independent living. Assisted living communities are for those who need some assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, eating, dressing, toileting and medication administration, but who also want to experience some independence.

They also differ in terms of how care is delivered.  In independent living, seniors are responsible for contracting and paying for supportive care on their own. In assisted living, 1-2 hours of daily personal care often is included in the monthly rent (and if it is not, it is available for an additional fee). Care needs are reflected on the resident’s service plan, which is reviewed on a regular basis by the professional team of caregivers.  Assisted living also provides some nursing observation from registered nurses and/or licensed practical nurses as well as certified nursing assistants and home health aides. 

Another difference between independent and assisted living is environmental design.  Independent living communities may be designed as multiple buildings spread out on large campuses, with a central gathering area for programming and meals. Spaces, including apartments, may be larger and there is often greater distance to travel between buildings. Assisted living facilities are often smaller and more self-contained.  Many of the resident’s needs are provided right in the assisted living building. Memory programs within assisted living are even more intentional in their design. There may be, for example, enhanced lighting, color coding, visual cues, memory boxes, easy to navigate walking paths and secure outdoor and indoor space.

Assisted living rules and regulations vary drastically from state to state. In the state of Massachusetts, assisted livings are regulated by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA). They mandate that all communities abide by their AL regulations and they assess compliance through biannual reviews.

To download your copy of our “You and Your Aging Parent” ebook, visit our website, www.agingredefined.org.

Tara Fleming Caruso, MA, LMHC's picture

About the Blogger

Collaborative Care Advisor at NewBridge on the Charles

Tara serves as the collaborative care advisor for the NewBridge campus, making her an important resource for each of our residents and their families. Tara helps each senior moving to NewBridge both understand and access the variety of supports our continuum of care offers so each can live their best life possible. Tara brings almost 25 years of elder care experience to this role, including developing an expressive therapy program in a skilled nursing facility, serving as a program manager at a dementia-specific assisted living, and working at NewBridge on the Charles since 2009. She is a...

More about this blogger

Add new comment


Thanks for the great information. I've always been pretty confused as to what the difference was between the two. After reading this I can safely say that I know the difference. I never realized how big of difference it was either.

Long-Term Chronic Care Hospital

Subscribe to our weekly blog

Read Our Latest E-Book

HSL in the News

For the latest news, visit Hebrew SeniorLife’s official website