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Independent Living Vs Adult Family Homes

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As part of our ongoing series examining the differences in senior housing facilities. We’re going to look at the difference between adult family homes (AFHs) and independent living (retirement homes).

These are two very different senior living options and chances are your elder’s health will be a large factor in determining which community is best for your loved one.

Independent Living

Independent living is the industry term for what is most commonly known as retirement homes. These communities have a great deal of range, and if you visit our independent living page, you can see that in the price alone. These can be the least expensive senior care option or the MOST expensive.


Retirement homes are intended for seniors that do not need a lot of assistance. They do not need to be regulated by the government because the residents should not require skilled nursing care or help with the activities of daily living (such as getting around the house, cooking, shopping, eating, etc.).

Usually, a prime resident for retirement homes are those elders that don’t require a lot of assisted living now, but may in the future. Rather than go sell their house when they become more ill or immobile, seniors may choose to move to an independent living facility because they no longer can (or wish to) maintain a house.

What an independent living environment does is:

  1. Move your elder to community of their peers.
  2. Relieve them of the responsibility of maintaining a house.
  3. Make it easy for them to move into more intensive senior care facilities, should they need it.

Therefore, the reason it can be so expensive is because these range from very cheap (few amenity) communities to extremely enviable palatial estates.

Adult Family Homes

Adult family homes have a more consistent range in price and it’s because, no matter what, your senior lives within an actual house. These are homes (within neighborhoods) that are remodeled to be very senior-friendly.

Whereas independent living can have from a few to a couple hundred residents, the state of Washington limits the residents in an adult family home to six.

In addition, the biggest differentiator between these two senior living options is that independent living only provides the bare minimum of elder care (mostly house work and transportation should seniors need it in the event of an accident). Adult family homes provide completely customized care and this can range from skilled nursing to Alzheimer’s or dementia care.

Independent Living Vs Adult Family Homes

As you’ve likely surmised by now, the best way to determine which senior living option is best for your elder is by determining what kind of elder care they need. In the case of independent living, not much; in the case of adult family homes, it varies, but ultimately is for elders who need some form of assistance with the activities of daily living, and is definitely a good choice for seniors with chronic health conditions or neurodegenerative disorders.

Written by
Concierge Care Advisors

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