Six people sit in the facility sun room socializing over drinks.

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living: Which is Best for You?


At first glance, independent living and assisted living communities seem quite similar. After all, they are both entry level options for senior living. Are you an active senior looking to settle into a community that offers amenities, security, and the opportunity to live your golden years to the fullest? Are you able to mostly get around by yourself but might require some assistance from time to time? Then independent or assisted living might be the perfect choice for you. Keep reading to learn more about the differences and similarities of independent living and assisted living, so you can make an informed decision about which senior living option might be best for you or your loved one.

The Difference Between Independent Living & Assisted Living

Are you trying to make the choice between an independent living community or an assisted living facility? We’ve laid out all of the differences and similarities of these senior living communities below to help make your decision easier.


Independent Living Definition

According to, independent living is “A living arrangement that maximizes independence and self-determination, especially of disabled persons living in a community instead of in a medical facility.”

Assisted Living Facility Definition

The National Institute on Aging says,  “Assisted living is for people who need help with daily care, but not as much help as a nursing home provides.”

The difference between independent living and assisted living comes down to the level of assistance each person requires. The factors below will help, each senior determine which living situation suits them best now as well as which may be best in the future.

Personal Abilities

You or your loved ones level of independence and ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) is the biggest determining factor when choosing between independent and assisted living facilities.

  • Independent Living: Residents of independent living facilities should have a high level of independence. This means that you or your loved one are able to complete all of your ADLs without assistance, and do not need consistent medical attention, therapy, or supervision.
  • Assisted Living: Residents of assisted living facilities typically have a moderate level of independence. Maybe you can complete most of your ADLs but might need assistance with a select few. Or perhaps you need daily therapy, and 24/7 access to a medical staff just in case. If this is the case for you or your loved one, then an assisted living community is the right choice for you.


  • Independent Living: Independent living communities typically offer housing in a variety of types and layouts. Accommodations in independent living communities can vary from townhomes, condo-style homes, cottages, and apartments.
  • Assisted Living: Accommodations at an assisted living community is usually apartment-style housing, with multiple layouts and floor-plans available. All apartments should be on the ground floor and handicap accessible.

In both independent and assisted living communities, your home will have most of the features that you are used to, such as climate control, private phone & internet. Many facilities also offer the ability to customize the amenities in your home, such as a kitchenette and appliances.  


  • Independent Living: Since your home in an independent living community will most likely offer a kitchen, you can still prepare your own meals if you choose. However, most facilities also have a restaurant or cafeteria on site where you can get up to three meals per day. Make sure to ask if meals are included in your plan or if they are an additional cost.
  • Assisted Living: Assisted Living: Assisted living facilities will have an on-site cafeteria where you can get three meals per day. Typically the cost of dining is included in the overall cost of living in an assisted living community. At Culpepper Place, we offer our residents dining options that include three meals per day, plus snacks!

Activities & Other Amenities:

Both independent and assisted living facilities offer ample opportunity for senior socialization, and provide a variety of senior living services.

  • Independent Living: Most independent living communities offer a planned-out social calendar with a variety of events and activities. Unlike assisted living, there might not be a daily calendar. Shuttle services are typically offered on an as-needed basis, and house-cleaning is usually offered at an additional cost.
  • Assisted Living: Daily activities are offered in a wide variety of areas from games, to fitness, to arts and crafts. Typically, shuttle services are offered if you need to run errands around town, or if there is a community outing. House-cleaning services are available for all residents at no additional cost.

On-Site Care/ Medical Help

Similarly to personal abilities, the availability of medical care is a big differentiator between independent and assisted living facilities.

  • Independent Living: On-site care like nursing and therapy services are not typically available. Independent living facilities do not usually have an on-site physician or medical staff.
  • Assisted Living: Assisted living facilities usually offer 24/7 nursing, assistance, and other medical care. Medication management is often offered at no additional cost to the resident. At Culpepper Place, all of our residents are given an emergency pendant, access to nurses 24 hours a day, and regular health assessments.

Culpepper Place strives to offer the best services and provide the best lifestyle possible for all of our residents. If you or your loved one are considering making the transition into an assisted living facility, contact us at Culpepper Place.

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Are you looking for a caring, compassionate, assisted living facility? You’re looking in the right place. Since 1955, Culpepper Place has cultivated an environment that prioritizes our resident’s health, happiness, and socialization. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.