Consultant Hours
  • Mon - Fri: 5:00 AM - 9:00 PM PT
  • Sat - Sun: 5:00 AM - 5:30 PM PT

Independent Living Industry Terms

Every senior has a distinct set of needs and desires. The number of options for senior living therefore must be almost as diverse as the people seeking them out. Independent living options for seniors provide a mix of convenience and flexibility that many people aged 55 and older desire.

If you think independent living might be the right choice for you or a family member, here are some of the common terms it's beneficial for you to know in your search for the right independent living community.

Active independence

This is the concept behind many independent living communities; that residents should be able to maintain active lifestyles particular to their own passions and interests. There's help there when they want it, but no restrictions on their lifestyle.

Active living

An idea similar to active independence, independent living communities usually make a point to provide lots of opportunities for helping residents keep up an active lifestyle.


Communities that are all-inclusive, or offer an all-inclusive option, work much like all-inclusive resorts do. Residents can count on amenities like meals, housekeeping, and laundry being included in the cost of living there. The details for what comes with an all-inclusive option will vary by community, so check on the particulars when you're doing your research.

Apartment-style living

Residents live in apartments just like those they'd rent outside of a retirement community, but in a complex with an emphasis on renting to seniors specifically.

Beacon Hill Model

An aging community in Boston came together to figure out a solution for staying in their own homes as they got older. Their model has inspired other communities around the nation, also known as member-driven communities due to their focus on actively involving residents in the decision-making process. Learn more about the Beacon Hill Model here.

Congregate care

Another term commonly used to describe independent living communities. Usually congregate care communities offer a number of shared activities and different levels of care for different residents.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

Continuing care retirement communities usually offer several levels of care, including independent living as well as more intensive care like assisted living. Residents and the community typically have a written agreement to clarify the continuum of care required over the time they live there.

Independent living

The term describes any living option for seniors that allows them to have an active lifestyle that includes their own travel, hobbies, and any other priorities they have. It can apply to situations that offer a wide variety of care, as well as a diversity of amenity options based on the needs and preferences of the residents.

Minimum age

Independent living communities for seniors often have a minimum age for those moving in, to keep the community consistent to those with similar needs.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs)

A relatively new concept, NORCs, also known as retirement villages, are retirement communities that arise organically when a number of people living in a certain area work together to make it easier to age in their own homes. See the description of the Beacon Hill model above.

Resident capacity

Most independent living communities have a limit on the number of people they can take in. This both addresses practical concerns around the size of the facility, and ensures that residents are more likely to know each other and interact as part of a known community.

Retirement community

Another way to describe an independent living community. Retirement communities usually have minimum age requirements, but mostly consist of residents able to take care of themselves with minimal assistance.

Retirement living

A term often applied to the lifestyle experienced by residents at independent living and retirement communities.

Senior apartments

Apartment options specifically rented to seniors, usually found in a larger independent living community. The term senior apartments also refers to to senior housing that’s subsidized through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Senior housing

An umbrella term used to describe housing options specifically for seniors, including independent living, assisted living, nursing homes, memory care facilities, and senior apartments.

Senior living

A term used to describe the lifestyle of seniors, often in the context of the activities and amenities offered at independent living communities.

Senior living provider

Another term used to describe retirement and independent living communities.

For help finding the independent living community that's the best fit for you, browse the details and reviews of independent living communities in your area at