Independent Living Vs. Assisted Living: What’s the Difference?

October 4, 2022

Have you been considering transitioning out of your home and into a senior living community? Before you do, it’s essential to research and gather all the facts you need to make an educated decision so you can find the place that feels right for you.


With so many living options for aging adults, you may feel overwhelmed by all the choices. We’ll help you start sorting through them by answering a common question, “What’s the difference between independent living and assisted living?” We’ll break down some of the differences for you.

Independent Living

As the name suggests, independent living communities are for those who can live independently with little assistance but want to be a part of a community that encourages social engagement and community interactions with seniors in similar situations. Sometimes this can mean simply moving to a neighborhood that is for seniors who are 55 and up.

Assisted Living

An assisted living facility is different from independent living communities in that they are for seniors who may need assistance with daily tasks, including bathing, dressing, grooming, going to the bathroom, medication administration, etc.

Difference in Cost

Assisted living is often billed around a rental model. Monthly rental fees may include housekeeping, maintenance, security, nursing care, meals, programming, and around-the-clock staffing. A few hours of personal care a day are usually worked into the rental cost or can be added for an additional fee.


Technically assisted living is an out-of-pocket expense, but many people have long-term care insurance policies that may cover a portion of the monthly rental fee. Many communities also offer subsidized programs to help with the cost. When looking into facilities, make sure to ask about these options.


The cost for independent living communities is usually different than assisted living facilities. Usually, there’s an entrance fee upon moving in, with up to 90% of it being refundable upon leaving. There may be an additional monthly fee to cover maintenance, meals, security, programming, and housekeeping.

Support and Medical Care

Generally, independent living communities are for seniors who don’t need daily assistance or medical care, so those things are not required or offered, making the overall cost a bit lower.
You’re paying for assistance with daily tasks and on-call nurses in assisted living facilities. Many assisted living facilities have doctors on-site as well for convenience and safety. The cost of having the services on site will make assisted living a little more expensive.

Community Layout

There are design differences between independent living communities and assisted living facilities. Independent living communities may have a layout that feels like a typical neighborhood, with homes spread out around a central meeting area for meals, programs, and entertainment. Living quarters tend to be bigger in independent living communities, and there is a greater distance between each building. The homes may be apartments or cottages.


Assisted living facilities have a different design. The layout is accommodating to disabled individuals and those who need assistance. In assisted living communities, everything is closer together and easier to access.

The Role of Loved Ones

Being surrounded by loved ones is key to ensuring positive physical, emotional, and mental health. If a senior community is not welcoming to family and friends, that is a red flag. It is so important that friends and family feel welcome in their loved one’s senior living community.


In independent living communities, members’ families are welcome to visit, become a part of the community and even enjoy the amenities within the community.


In assisted living facilities, family/loved ones often need to take on a more active role in caring for their loved ones, especially for residents with dementia. Family members are kept in the loop and updated about their family member’s health and progress and are an active part of care planning.

Programming and Other Amenities

One of the perks of both independent and assisted living communities is the various programming and amenities available for the residents. These amenities may include housekeeping, round-the-clock staff, dining spots, transportation options, social engagements, entertainment, etc. Many facilities also have libraries, cafés, game rooms, and other common areas. Some also have pools and gyms.


A monthly dinner fee is often worked into the rental price at independent living communities. Many communities offer various meal options from fine dining to casual food. Residents can also cook meals at home.


Assisted living facilities typically include every meal, and most residents eat their meals in the dining rooms together. Most residents in assisted living look forward to their meal time for social interaction with their friends.


Live in the Moment and Start Your Next Chapter at Summit Vista

Maintenance-free living, thoughtful amenities, timesaving services, invigorating wellness programs, and a dynamic community atmosphere are just a few ways we help residents live in the moment at Summit Vista. Contact our retirement counselors online or call 801-758-3138 to learn how you can find freedom to pursue your passions in our senior living community.