What is Independent Living?

What is Independent Living?

Often confused with assisted living, independent living is best described as a philosophy or movement for those with disabilities. Created by disabled persons, the independent living movement emerged in California and the first Center for Independent Living followed soon after in 1972 in Berkeley. Today, independent living has spread to all continents and is an integral part of many countries social policy. The overall intention of the independent living movement is for disabled individuals to live independent lives and enjoy the same choices and opportunities as others in their communities. The independent living movement advocates that unless those with disabilities are sick and need serious medical care, they should not be hospitalized or institutionalized.

Many consumer and corporate resources exist to help guide those with disabilities, and guide workplaces striving for more diversity and inclusion. Consumer services can include systems change and individual advocacy, financial benefits counseling, housing assistance, employment services and independent living skills training, among other services. Corporate services help to raise disability issue awareness, guide workplaces in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and also help provide cost-effective and sensible approaches to accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace.

The independent living movement encourages those with disabilities to stay active in their communities and to work for political changes that lead to the legal protection of their human and civil rights. It also advocates the right to self-determination, and, if needed, support services, such as income supplements and assistive technology with the ultimate goal being the preservation of the same freedoms enjoyed by other citizens. In every way, those involved in the independent living movement expect to be treated fairly and to live with dignity, regardless of age or disability.

As a result of this movement, independent living centers,have been designed for individuals who could live on their own, but choose to live as part of a community with others. These centers are a helpful alternative to institutionalized housing for those who do not suffer from serious health issues.

While these communities are similar to living within the general public, residents are often able to enjoy educational and recreational activities shared with others. Depending upon the center, one may find libraries and reading rooms, pools and spas, exercise facilities and planned social activities. Some communities provide housekeeping, meals and local transportation. While independent living centers do not provide health care, they allow residents to hire a nurse or home health aide to help with personal care and/or medicines.

Independent living communities rent apartments just like public rental complexes, with prices set by the local market. They are subject to rent increases and can usually offer more services for additional fees. Most of these communities set an age requirement of fifty-five and older.

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