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June 1, 2022

What is the Difference Between a 55+ Community & Independent Living?

When it comes to senior housing throughout British Columbia, many different options are available. Active retirees can choose to move into a 55+ community, explore independent senior living, or – for those who need more daily assistance and support – assisted living. For individuals with higher care needs, skilled nursing facilities and memory care communities may be a better solution.

With so many options, it can be challenging to understand the differences so you can find the right housing solution for yourself or someone you love. As your trusted provider of senior living resources, BCSLA is dedicated to helping individuals and families understand their options so they can make the best choice for themselves and their families.

Below, we are looking at the differences between 55+ retirement communities in B.C. and independent senior living. Although they are both geared toward active older adults, certain distinctions that them apart from each other.

Life in a 55+ Community

Most often, a 55+ community is a dedicated neighbourhood with age restrictions for entry. The community is usually comprised of a collection of homes or apartments, and is often gated for safety and security.

To move into 55+ retirement communities in B.C., the first obvious requirement is that you are over 55 years old. Because of this requirement, residents often enjoy living among similarly aged peers, neighbours, and friends. It is essentially a gated community dedicated to older adults. 

Although the community may have some shared spaces – for example, a clubhouse or community pool – these are not requirements for the community. Each house or apartment exists as a separate living area (similar to any other community). However, unlike other senior housing options, there are typically no additional offerings such as on-site restaurants, life enrichment activities, etc. 

A 55+ community is a good option for those who want to maintain their independence in their retirement years but also want to live in a community with other older adults. 

The Advantages of Independent Senior Living

Although many older adults elect to move into a 55+ community when they retire, others choose independent senior living. There are several advantages to living in a community that is dedicated to fostering health, well-being, and a sense of friendship among its residents.

Living spaces in an independent senior living community can vary from private houses, cottages, villas, or apartments to shared living options. 


An independent senior living community has amenities that you are unlikely to find in a 55+ neighbourhood. This is because independent senior living is a planned community, designed to cater to all the needs and preferences of its residents.

Many of the daily and ongoing tasks that a person would need to attend to on their own are done can be handled by the community [in most cases, for an additional fee], including housekeeping, laundry, and dining options. In addition, there are usually shared spaces for residents to gather and enjoy various activities, such as art, music, fitness, and meals.


Another advantage to living in an independent senior living community is the convenience. Because it is a planned community, you can find everything you need in one place. For many communities, this means you do not have to look far for dining, entertainment, health and wellness activities, and group outings.

Having everything you need right outside your door can have an extremely positive impact on individuals. Because social isolation is a growing problem among older adults in Canada, it is important for them to have easy access to community events and meaningful activities. Whether it is participating in an art or music course, joining friends for a social event like dinner or dancing, or going on an excursion into the nearby city, there are many options available to foster a sense of well-being and camaraderie.

Because of the convenience and amenities of independent senior living, many older adults choose these places to enjoy their retirement years. 

If you are interested in learning more about independent living or want to explore the retirement communities in B.C., we invite you to browse our Member Directory today! 


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