California Independent Living

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California Independent Living

To live independently means to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Independent living communities in California are designed to allow for a maintenance-free lifestyle, living by your own standards in a community of like-minded people. California is home to 40 million residents and has one of the largest economies in all the world. When people think of California, they think of sunshine and blue skies nearly 365 days a year, the expanse of over 800 miles of beautiful and scenic coastline. The state is a prime location for seniors who want to stay active and live independently.

California is known for the dynamic geography, the entertainment attractions and world renowned cuisine in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. The state is also known for its high quality healthcare, which makes it a desirable destination for seniors and retirees.

There are several cities of note in the state of California where your loved one may receive excellent, high quality healthcare services: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Fresno, Oakland, among many others.

Independent living offers the comfort of a home maintenance free lifestyle

Who are the ideal residents for independent living communities?

The typical people interested in Independent Living require little to no assistance in daily life. They most likely want to preserve their social interactions with others, and they like the peace of mind that comes with no yard maintenance and housekeeping.

To promote safety, most communities offer 24-hour security or a call system to reach staff or a manager. Management and staff are there to promote a safe and secure environment because the well-being of residents is priority number one.

What makes independent living communities in California different from other types of senior living?

Because of the ideal climate, communities have a variety of outdoor activities. There will likely be common areas for people to socialize; organized events give residents the opportunity to engage in social activities on premises or in a nearby town. Dining rooms may be available for group meals with plenty of options to meet resident’s dietary needs and preferences. Some communities may even allow cats and small and medium sized dogs.

Independent living communities may offer desirable services for residents, such as

The available services and amenities vary between different communities, or even between buildings on the same campus.

Services you may find in independent living

Meal Plans– This could be a community kitchen to prepare your own meals, flexible spending accounts, up to three meals each day. Some newer communities may even offer a restaurant, open to the public.
Housekeeping– May be offered as an additional fee or included in the base rent.
Transportation– May be an option, including regular scheduled trips to the grocery or nearby stores.
Linen service – Services may be offered for an additional fee or included in the base rent.
Activities– Some events may be run by residents with no staff involvement. Or a community may have a staff member plan, schedule and lead activities.

Amenities you may find in independent living

Amenities at an Independent Living Community can vary greatly. Typically the more available amenities, the higher the monthly rate. Most Independent Living communities offer excellent ways for people to stay social and build relationships with their peers in common areas or at a clubhouse on-site. Planned life enrichment opportunities could be: entertainment and performers, arts and crafts, game nights, movie nights, cocktail hour, bus trips and other outings.

  • Recreational center or a clubhouse on-site.  
  • The type and variety of meals provided.
  • Swimming pools, steam room or sauna.
  • Sports facilities where residents can play bocce ball, racketball and tennis.  
  • Trails for walking.  
  • Covered parking.
  • Theater, library or billiards room.
  • Golf course.
  • On-site spa.
  • Beauty Salon & Barber.

Learning about what amenities are offered and comparing them to the desires of your loved one will go a long way toward finding the perfect fit.

Housing in independent living in California

  • One-bedroom apartments 
  • Spacious two-bedroom apartments 
  • Duplexes 
  • Cottages 
  • and other stand-alone structures

The safety and well-being of residents is priority number one in an independent living community. Most communities in California have 24-hour security and round-the-clock staffing and management there to look out for residents and keep a safe and secure environment.

More benefits of California independent living

  • Common areas that allow people to socialize as they wish. Their time is their time. 
  • Organized events which give residents the opportunity to engage in social activities on premises and or in a nearby town. 
  • Dining rooms with plenty of meal options. Because of the needs and desires of each individual resident, most independent living communities have great choices for everyone.  
  • Friends and family can visit anytime.  
  • Residents have autonomy to make their own decisions as far as coming and going. 
  • Independent living communities may offer amenities such as libraries and computer rooms; fitness centers and exercise classes. 
  • Some communities allow cats and small and medium sized dogs.
  • Some communities may have a contracted agency on site to provide scheduled assistance for activities of daily living (ADLs) if needed.

How much does independent living in California cost?

Living in California is more expensive than the national average. Across the state, the average cost of independent living is $2,830. Prices vary by region and by county and city. Typically costs in certain regions fluctuate because of the economic structures. 

Most regions of California are home to several independent living communities. There are 28 in Los Angeles; 41 in San Francisco; 25 in San Diego; 40 in Sacramento; and 19 in San Jose.

Regional  average cost per month in California:

  • Los Angeles: $4,000
  • San Diego: $3,750
  • San Jose: $3,500
  • Sacramento: $2,750
  • San Francisco: $2,600

Living independently usually requires much less hands-on medical care, which will typically reduce the cost. Nationally, it is estimated that independent living costs 30-50% less per month than assisted living.

Paying for Independent Living, what resources are available to help?

Private Funds- YES: Most families pay for independent living with private funds. Private pay can be a combination of retirement funds, personal savings, and pension payments. Family members may also contribute funds toward a loved one’s care.

Tax Credit, section 202, HUD housing -MAYBE:

  • Occupancy in Section 202 housing is open to any very low-income household comprised of at least one person who is at least 62 years old at the time of initial occupancy.
  • The Section 202 program helps expand the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly. It provides very low-income elderly with options that allow them to live independently but in an environment that provides support activities such as cleaning, cooking, transportation, etc. The program is similar to Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811).

Veterans Aid & Attendance -MAYBE:

  • Veteran aid and attendance allow veterans to receive financial benefits.   
  • A single veteran may qualify for as much as $2,050 a month in benefits.   
  • A veteran with a spouse may qualify for as much as $2,430 per month.   
  • A well veteran with an ill spouse may qualify for as much as $1,600 per month.  
  • A surviving spouse may qualify for $1,300 a month.

Long-term Care Insurance- NOT TYPICALLY: This type of insurance does cover independent living communities because the policy owner will typically need assistance with Activities of Daily living to start the claim process. This care level is not typically offered by the Independent Living Provider. Typically, long-term care insurance will only help off-set costs related to care provided by a licensed provider, and not rent fees or meal expenses. 

Standard medical insurance- NO: Health Insurance does NOT cover independent living communities because there are no direct medical treatments and services involved.

Medicare- NO: Medicare does not cover independent living, and rarely pays for assisted living level of care. Medicare’s main function is the coverage of certain expenses like short-term care, and rehabilitation depending on eligibility. 

Medicaid- NO: Medicaid does not cover independent living. Most state medicaid plans require a care need to be present, such as dressing assistance, bathing assistance, cognitive impairment, etc.

Questions to ask when looking for Independent Living

  • Does the community or facility have the right atmosphere for your needs?
  • May I visit the community today?
  • Who are the residents?
  • What is the food like? Are residents happy with the food options?
  • What are the transportation options?
  • What amenities and activities are available?
  • What are the costs for extra amenities?
  • Does the facility have the right atmosphere for your needs?
  • Make sure the facility is clean and well maintained. You can tell a lot about the operation by noting What is clean and maintained. Are doorknobs loose or damaged? Do you see any frayed carpet or trip hazards?
  • Visit during lunch hour to observe what the residents are eating. Ask questions about the nutrition program. Is there diversity in meals, healthy fruits and vegetables served at all meals, drink options?
  • Speak to residents and/or family members to learn their perspective.
  • Ask about staff and resident engagement. Get a feel for how staff interact with residents.
  • Ask about the life enrichment programs. Activities are crucial when it comes to quality of life and play a key role in care for older adults.
  • And finally (there is a plethora of more things to consider), get to know the leadership in the building. If you feel good around the executive director, head nurse, lead activities director and even the chef or janitor, it is a good sign you can trust them with the care of your loved one.

Additional Questions and Inquiries

  • What happens in case of emergencies? Is there a specific protocol set in place?  
  • Who is responsible for security?  
  • Is transportation available on-site?  
  • What is the accessibility of the community? Coming and going.  
  • Are there options for food delivery, such as groceries?  
  • Are weekly activities programmed for social interaction?

Questions to ask when Looking for Senior Living

Finding an assisted living community, can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on things to be observant of:

  • Does the facility have the right atmosphere for your needs?
  • Make sure the facility is clean and well maintained. You can tell a lot about the operation by noting What is clean and maintained. Are doorknobs loose or damaged? Do you see any frayed carpet or trip hazards?
  • Visit during lunch hour to observe what the residents are eating. Ask questions about the nutrition program. Is there diversity in meals, healthy fruits and vegetables served at all meals, drink options?
  • Speak to residents and/or family members to learn their perspective.
  • Ask about staff and resident engagement. Get a feel for how staff interact with residents.
  • Ask about the life enrichment programs. Activities are crucial when it comes to quality of life and play a key role in care for older adults.
  • And finally (there is a plethora of more things to consider), get to know the leadership in the building. If you feel good around the executive director, head nurse, lead activities director and even the chef or janitor, it is a good sign you can trust them with the care of your loved one.

Eldercare Locator is a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources. Connect with services such as meals, home care or transportation, or a caregiver education or respite from caregiving responsibilities. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Medicare provides a search feature to find & compare providers near you, most senior housing and care providers are included on CareAvailability.com. Find & compare plans in your area. Determine if you qualify for premium savings

Medicaid offers information on how to apply for Medicaid, eligibility criteria, links to local state offices, and additional resources.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Whether you are living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone with the disease, information and resources are available. 

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Care Availability

Care Availability

Written by The Care Availability Team
Experts in the senior care & retirement living industries

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