What’s the Difference Between a 55+ and Independent Living Community?

Choosing a Senior Living Floor Plan

Posted: July 17, 2023

As we age, the desire for a fulfilling and worry-free lifestyle becomes increasingly important. Understanding the options from 55+ active adult living to independent living and everything in between can help you find the right fit when seeking a new place to call home. Choosing a community designed to enrich your life can make the transition an exciting new adventure. Before making a decision, it’s vital to understand the similarities and differences between your options so you select the best place for you.Two of the most popular choices are 55+ active adult living and independent living communities.


In a recent survey of senior living residents, the top three attributes they liked most about senior living communities, were: friendly residents and staff, making friendships/camaraderie and safety and security. In fact, in the survey 46 percent of older adults agreed strongly with the statement, “I would rather eat a meal with strangers than by myself.”

This sentiment points to the overwhelming desire for connection and community among older adults which is what you will find in both 55+ active adult living communities and Independent living communities. Both options offer a plethora of benefits including a like minded community, engagement activities and safe and secure building, but 55+ active living communities can offer a more cost effective option that meet the needs of many older adults.

55+ Communities

A 55+ Active adult living community is a community for active adults with at least one resident living on each property being over the age of 55. Many people opt for these communities to take advantage of an active lifestyle with people their own age.

The types of homes you’ll find in 55+ communities often offer apartments, condominiums, and townhouses for rent or for purchase. Many adults this age are ready to downsize and do less home maintenance.For example, at Bella Vita, there are one and two bedroom apartments where all utilities as well as light housekeeping is included in the monthly rent.

With 55+ communities, residents can enjoy a sense of belonging to a community. They offer residents the opportunity to connect with others of a similar age, providing them with a safe and peaceful environment to enjoy their retirement years.

Amenities and activities are typically provided and may include the following:

  • Sports courts
  • Fitness centers
  • Golf courses
  • Art rooms
  • Social events
  • Dog parks

BV Dif between 55 plus and IL

Locations are typically chosen based on beauty and convenience, often within walking distance from everything residents need, including parks and recreation areas, department stores, grocery stores, and restaurants.

Independent Living Communities

Independent living communities are typically located within a senior living community as part of a life plan community and generally require significant buy-in fees from residents, which provides them with the opportunity for additional care if they find they need more support.

In addition to the by-in fees, independent living arrangements often include a meal plan so that residents don’t need to cook but increase the monthly costs. Just like residential communities, Independent living offers older adults who want to maintain their independence the opportunity to build relationships with like-minded people and enjoy a lovely community with a rich array of amenities and services.

Some independent living communities host events and classes such as arts and culture, history, literature, music, and more. 

BV dif between 55 plus and IL

Bottom Line

Feeling at home with friendly staff and making new friends in the community rank high in priority for most older adults but being in a safe and secure place tops the list as 89 percent of seniors agreed with this statement. Both residential 55+ and independent living communities can offer these important elements. 

A 55+ active adult living community can be the perfect fit if you don’t want the expensive buy-in or commitment. You get all the independence without the home maintenance.  You get like minded neighbors without the expensive buy in.  Whether you’re looking into senior living options for yourself or a loved one, do your research. Consider your lifestyle and future care requirements, and weigh the cost differences to find the best fit possible. 

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