Independent living is simply any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors, generally those aged 55 and over. Independent Living, often referred to as retirement communities, retirement homes, congregate living, senior housing or senior apartments are designed specifically for independent senior adults who want to enjoy a lifestyle filled with recreational, educational and social activities with other seniors. These may be apartment complexes, condominiums or even free-standing homes. In general, the housing is friendlier to older adults, often being more compact, with easier navigation and assistance in yard maintenance if there is a yard. Sometimes recreational centers or clubhouses are also available on site.

These communities are designed for seniors who are able to live on their own, but desire the security and conveniences of community living. The person is generally healthy and any medical or personal care can be provided by visiting nurses or a home health aide. Staff at the retirement community does not take on the general responsibility for the safety and well-being of the adult. Under this living arrangement, the senior adult leads an independent lifestyle that requires minimal or no extra assistance.

Generally referred to as elderly housing in the government-subsidized environment, independent living also includes rental assisted or market rate apartments or cottages where residents usually have complete choice in whether to participate in a facility’s services or programs.

The VA will count as unreimbursed medical expenses any portion of the payment to the independent living facility that is documented as medical expenses. Since some Veterans and Surviving Spouses living in independent living also have need of home health care services, those expenses may also count as unreimbursed medical expense.