The Complete Resource Guide to Finding the Right Independent Living Community

Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean losing one’s independence and self-determination. In Georgia, many seniors enjoy an active and autonomous lifestyle by moving to an Independent Living Community.

These communities, often referred to as Retirement Communities, Senior Apartment living, Active Adult communities, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities, offer a variety of activities, amenities and services, however they do differ from one another.

What is Independent Living in Atlanta?

Stated simply, Independent Living is a senior living option for those who can maintain a mostly autonomous lifestyle but desire a more socially engaging, stimulating, and secure environment. In Georgia, home care services may be contracted with outside agencies to meet minimal support needs of the senior. Many times this service is onsite for your convenience.

This level of senior living is typically designed for those 55 years of age and older who need no or very little assistance with daily living activities. There generally is no medical or nursing service available however these communities may offer wellness nurses (such as found in Continuing Care Retirement Communities) and programs and services that promote a healthy and dynamic lifestyle. This type of senior housing is maintenance-free and generally scaled for ease of movement and convenience.

Many of these communities offer centralized recreational activities found in clubhouses or community centers. In addition, a range of social activities may be offered that enable seniors to interact with others through fitness, swimming, as well as educational programs, arts and crafts, special events, dinners, dances, and many other programs.

What are the services offered in Independent Living Communities?

Because of the confusion with ‘retirement communities’ and the wide variety, size, location and structure of options, it is important to obtain a comprehensive list of all services and amenities that are available with the communities under consideration. Many will find the following:

  • Maintenance-free living including upkeep of the building and any yard or common area
  • Private (or semi-private if one chooses) living space with kitchen facilities for meal preparation
  • Water, heat, and some other utilities covered under the monthly fee/rent
  • Meals (one or two per day) prepared home-style often by a chef
  • Housekeeping and laundry service
  • Social, recreational and mentally stimulating activities and programs
  • Transportation service for shopping, medical appointments, and services/activities not available onsite
  • Some offer beauty and barber services, spa, movie nights, bingo games, clubs that are related to specific interests or hobbies, libraries and many other amenities.

Many of these communities take into consideration the psychological and social needs as well as the privacy and security requirements of their residents and gear their mission and programs toward those that promote personal fulfillment and advancement, an active lifestyle in the community, health and wellness, and provide a menu of engaging offerings that augment a style of carefree living. 

What criteria might signal the need for an Independent Living Community?

Many seniors may desire more socialization as they have been living alone for an extended period, may feel that maintaining a home is getting to be too much, or want a change of venue to experience more opportunities for interactive activities and programs. The reasons for transitioning to an Independent Living Community are as many and varied as the number of independent living choices available in Georgia.

While any change of living circumstances may bring on feelings of anxiety and sadness, some of the things to review when considering a move to an Independent Living Community include:

  • Does the senior feel isolated and lonely? Does the senior live a fair distance from shopping, family and social activities?
  • Is it becoming a physical burden to maintain the home and property?
  • Is the current living environment becoming more difficult due to stairs, and uphill climb or because it’s in a changing neighborhood?
  • Does the senior lack transportation services?
  • Would the senior prefer a more active lifestyle?
  • Does the senior desire a more secure environment?

It must be pointed out that if the senior has many personal care needs or if medical needs make it imperative for 24 hour care, an Independent Living Community is not the appropriate level of senior living and either an Assisted Living Community or Skilled Nursing Facility should be explored. Some seniors take advantage of the lower Independent Living rates (rather than an Assisted Living Community) and contract with home care agencies for some assistance with activities of daily living, light housekeeping, meal preparation and other supportive services.

What should be anticipated when deciding on an Atlanta Independent Living Community?

It can be emotionally difficult and for some personally embarrassing to give up the ‘family home’ and move to an Independent Living Community but the gains must be weighed against the perceived losses. Seniors may regret losing control or the fact that the property has become too burdensome or the neighborhood no longer holds the attraction it once held and feelings of loss and even anger may arise. These feelings of vulnerability and grief are quite normal and should be talked out with family or professionals if necessary before any move in completed. Going forward, the gains in security, socialization, activities and personal growth within a carefree lifestyle should be accentuated.

Most Independent Living Communities provide private rooms, smaller complete kitchens, and offer meals (seniors may opt for one, two or no meals) in a group dining room.

    What are the costs associated with Independent Living Communities?

    Because this level of senior housing requires the most ‘self-reliant’ individuals, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans do not cover any of the expenses. The senior is responsible for all costs associated with independent living.

    Some seniors may qualify for Government Subsidized or Low-Income Housing (sometimes referred to as Section 8 Housing or Senior Apartments) should they meet the income guidelines for such housing. Atlanta Senior Advocates can provide a list of these facilities however we are unable to tour or offer other services. There is often a waiting list of 3 months to 2 years for this type of subsidized housing.

    Retirement Homes and Retirement Communities are often neighborhoods consisting of independent or semi-independent housing. For such, a real estate agent or property developer can offer the best assistance in locating this type of senior housing. Costs vary on the type of structure chosen.

    Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) require a large ‘buy-in’ fee, usually between $150,000 and $400,000. While these large scale communities offer Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Skilled Nursing Facility levels of housing, seniors must enter the community from the Independent Living criteria. Should a senior require the Assisted Living level or Skilled Nursing care, the senior cannot qualify for admission to the CCRC (only current residents of the CCRC may move into the Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facility). In addition, there is a monthly fee ranging from $3000 to $5000 for the CCRC.

    There are more than 90 independent living facilities in Georgia, 40 of which are in the greater Atlanta region. The average cost of a true Independent Living Community in Atlanta is approximately $2500 per month though some communities may charge between $1900 and $3500 per month. If both spouses are relocating to an Independent Living Community, there is often a ‘second person fee’ that is not included in the initial stated fee. Seniors and families need to be careful in determining what is covered by the monthly rental or fee as some services are charged separately and some communities have association fees apart from the monthly rental/fee. Atlanta Senior Advocates directly assists seniors and families by touring the Independent Living Communities with you to assure all the right questions are asked and determine the appropriate fit for the senior weighing such factors as lifestyle, personal needs, costs, and social engagement.

      Is there a resource that will help Individuals navigate through this process?

      We will also ask questions that offer a deeper understanding of the community’s operation, standards and requirements. These may include asking about:

      • The community’s policies related to billing, payment, fee increases and notices
      • What is excluded in the monthly fee
      • What it would cost to add a service at a later date or can services be contracted
      • Does the community charge a deposit, an initial assessment fee, rental or entry fee
      • Transportation, cable television, internet provisions and fees
      • Parking availability – free parking or if paid parking is fee included in monthly rate
      • Do residents need personal property insurance
      • Is the community the right size and near family and friends
      • What restrictions are in place (what is not permitted on-premises)

      Atlanta Senior Advocates is your trusted source for assistance in identifying and selecting the Independent Living Community in Atlanta that best matches the senior’s expectations and budget with the environment and amenity offerings of the community.