Hebrew SeniorLife created the word ReAge to reflect the breadth and depth of services we offer: providing world-class health care; building innovative senior communities; funding groundbreaking research; and teaching future generations of geriatricians.

ReAge, a combination of “redefine” and “aging,” means to question everything about the aging process. Through ReAging, we are challenging conventions in order to create and implement new standard-of-care approaches that will positively impact the lives of older adults.

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

You and Your Aging Parents

Tara Fleming Caruso, MA, LMHC's picture
Assisted Living vs. Independent Living
Assisted Living vs. Independent Living

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.



Admissions Counselor and Marketing Manager for Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles

A licensed mental health counselor, Tara Fleming-Caruso has been helping elders and families explore assisted living and other senior care options for almost 20 years. As the admissions Counselor and Marketing Manager for Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles, Tara understands the myriad of concerns seniors and their adult children have about the aging process and navigating transitions. With a Masters in Expressive Arts Therapies, Tara’s expertise spans dementia care, program development, family mediation and caregiver support.

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Comment (1)

Thanks for the great

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.

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