Senior woman in independent living sitting on couch

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What is Independent Living at a Senior Living Community?

If you’re like most Americans, buying a house is the biggest decision you’ve made in your life. To choose the right house, you weighed many factors: location, amenities, residence size, proximity to things you care about and, of course, cost.

Now you’re about to make another big decision — you’re considering an independent living community. And once again, you’ve got lots of factors to weigh, including: 

And perhaps over all these factors looms the biggest one of them all: the cost of Independent Living versus aging at home.

What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community

A Life Plan Community is a more updated name for a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), but they’re the exact same thing. A Life Plan Community is a full-service community with Independent Living and a continuum of care, which may include Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, Memory Care and Rehabilitation Services.

A Life Plan Community may offer different types of contracts, but the only contract that assures you have care for life is the Type A Life Care contract, which Lakewood offers. Whether you need short- or long-term care, Life Care at Lakewood  guarantees you’ll receive Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, Memory Care and Rehabilitation services, all available right here on our Richmond, VA, campus.

Other types of communities (and contracts)

It’s important to note not all retirement communities are alike. Not all communities offer the same services and amenities, or provide all levels of care. And not all communities offer Life Care. So as you start looking at your options, think about both the lifestyle you want today, and the care you may need one day.

Types of communities:

  • Entrance fee — Some communities charge you an entrance fee, which may be either fully or partially refundable, or nonrefundable. You pay this upfront  fee to secure your residence at the community, and to cover the costs of care you may one day need. You’ll also pay a monthly service fee, one fee that covers the cost of things like utilities, meals, amenities, transportation, housekeeping, interior and exterior maintenance, and more.
  • Rental — Some communities charge a month-to-month rent. In this type of community, your monthly rent pays for things like your residence, meals, housekeeping and maintenance, activities and use of common spaces. Rental communities typically don’t offer higher levels of care on campus, though a few do. 

Most common types of contracts:

  • Type A — This is the Life Care contract, which Lakewood offers. You’re paying to ensure a residence for life and you’re guaranteed to receive care you and your spouse need on-site for life, all at predictable costs.
  • Type B — Also called a Modified Plan, this type of contract does offer  housing and services. But if you need care, you’ll receive either a limited number of free days included as part of the entrance fee, with additional care billed at per diem market rates, or an ongoing, minimally discounted rate. Care may or may not be on-site, and you may pay two monthly fees if you and your spouse need different levels of care. 
  • Type C — Known as Fee-for-Service, your housing, services and amenities are provided, but if you need care, you’re paying a fee for each service. Long-term care is charged at fee-for-service rates. For short-term care, you pay your monthly fee for your residence, plus the costs of housing and health care for Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing or Memory Care residence. And none of that may be on the same campus.

What Independent Living is

Independent living offers older adults the freedom to enjoy their lives without the hassles and responsibilities of homeownership. At an Independent Living community, you have your private residence — often a spacious apartment, villa or cottage — along with use of the community’s services, amenities, programs and common spaces. The community takes care of things like all inside and outside maintenance, meals and housekeeping.

The cost of Independent Living

The cost of Independent Living varies widely depending on the size of your residence, whether it’s just you or you and your spouse living in the residence, and which contract type you choose. Because of these considerations, it can be difficult to compare Independent Living community costs.

It can also be very difficult to find pricing for Independent Living online; the most recent figures readily available are from 2015, and it’s not clear what type of contract their estimates are based on.

At Lakewood, we’re transparent in our pricing for entrance fees and monthly service fees. We put our prices on our website so you know exactly what you’ll pay for either a Type A contract or a Type C  contract.

Costs of Independent Living versus aging at home

You might think aging in place in your own home is less expensive than moving to a retirement community — especially if your mortgage is paid off. 

But think of all the expenses you still have to pay, even if you have no mortgage:

  • Utilities like cable, internet, water, trash, electricity, phone, gas
  • Groceries 
  • Transportation costs (gas, oil changes, general maintenance, parking fees)
  • Lawn upkeep (sod or grass seed, weed killer, tiller, mower, maintenance) or hiring a lawn care company
  • Housecleaner services
  • Home maintenance expenses
  • Entertainment, such as movies, theater tickets, dining out, etc.

At an Independent Living community like Lakewood, these are just some of the expenses that are paid for through your monthly service fee. Lakewood also offers many, many more services and amenities, including:

  • Arts and education programs
  • Indoor heated pool and full-service spa
  • A culinary experience and numerous dining venues
  • Individualized fitness programs
  • Certified personal trainers
  • Complimentary scheduled transportation and community shuttle
  • 24/7 concierge
  • On-site Align Senior Clinic in partnership with AllyAlign Health

If you want to age in place, you’ll also need to account for the care you may need one day — according to the Department of Health and Human Services,  70% older adults over 65 will need care at some point in their lives. At Lakewood, you have Independent plus the full continuum of care, all right on campus.

Compare your cost of living

To get a clear picture of what a senior living community may cost you, try our cost comparison calculator. This handy tool lets you compare the cost of Independent Living versus the cost of aging at home. 

Once you’ve put in all the figures, you’ll receive a report you can download. If you’d like, print out your report, then schedule your personal visit and bring your report with you to Lakewood. One of our team members can review the costs and explain why choosing a retirement community like Lakewood might be the smartest decision you’ll ever make.