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May 1, 2023

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living: What’s the Difference?

By 2029, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of Canada’s seniors will be between the ages of 75 and 84. “Many of the growing number of older seniors will be able to remain independent, but others will require more support. The provincial government is working hard to meet the unique housing needs of British Columbia’s diverse senior population by providing a wide variety of programs, services and housing alternatives (Ministry of Health).”

Senior living communities throughout British Columbia provide a wide range of options to meet the varying needs of older adults. As a result, it might be challenging for individuals and families to confidently navigate care options and find what’s right for them.


To start, it’s important to understand the difference between two common (and similar) lifestyle options – independent living and assisted living. The BC Seniors Living Association (BCSLA) works to develop and improve independent and assisted living communities throughout British Columbia, so we’re highlighting the differences to further educate individuals and families. 

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

Both independent living communities and assisted living communities typically offer housing accommodations, social opportunities, programs and community amenities, and dining options for residents. 

In addition, both options allow residents to enjoy maintenance-free living without the hassles of home improvements or yard maintenance. These services are generally included in the monthly cost of the community and include repairs and maintenance to individual apartment homes, as well as upkeep of the overall community and grounds.

Therefore, the most significant difference between independent living and assisted living is the assistance and care available. For example, independent living is an ideal lifestyle option for active older adults. In comparison, assisted living communities are designed for older adults who may require assistance with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs).

Independent Living

For active seniors looking to enjoy maintenance-free living during their retirement years, independent living communities provide enrichment and engagement that can enhance any lifestyle. One of the best features of independent living is the opportunity for meaningful social connections, which many seniors may not have access to when aging in place due to factors such as the loss of friends and family members, mobility changes, or lack of transportation. 

Many senior living communities throughout British Columbia offer apartment-style housing with common areas and community settings where residents can connect. Many communities also offer amenities for residents to take advantage of and use at their leisure and can include anything from fitness centres and swimming pools to libraries and pickleball courts. 

Assisted Living

Assisted living can provide the same amenities, social opportunities, and engaging activities as independent living – with added assistance. This offers residents the same engaging environment to live actively and enjoy new opportunities for personal growth, as well as support them with ADLs.

ADLs are defined as the essential tasks a person must complete in order to live independently and safely, including:

  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Grooming and Hygiene
  • Continence
  • Mobility 

It’s important to note that assisted living communities don’t provide intensive medical care to residents. As a result, “long-term care services provide 24-hour professional supervision and care in a protective, supportive environment for people who have complex care needs and can no longer be cared for in their own homes or in an assisted living residence (”. 

For adults who need extra help with ADLs but don’t require skilled nursing care, assisted living communities offer around-the-clock support and work to ensure individuals are able to safely maintain their autonomy to enjoy their highest quality of life. 

Despite the slight differences in care, independent living and assisted living offer the same opportunity for seniors to enjoy their retirement years, focus on their wellness, and reconnect with the things that matter most to them. Through enriching amenities and supportive services, senior living communities in British Columbia provide a range of lifestyle options to fit varying needs and lifestyles. 

If you are considering senior living options, we encourage you to view our member directory and find a senior living community in British Columbia that can help you lead a safe and fulfilling retirement.

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