A Definition of Independent Living
Independent living communities primarily focus on serving the social needs of residents, as many are able to live independently without much support. Assisted living communities support those who need assistance with activities of daily living, while allowing residents to live as independently as possible.
Independent living should not be defined in terms of living on one’s own, being employed in a job fitting one’s capabilities and interests, or having an active social life. These are aspects of living independently. Independent living has to do with self-determination. It is having the right and the opportunity to pursue a course of action. And, it is having the freedom to fail — and to learn from one’s failures, just as nondisabled people do.
There are, of course, individuals who have certain mental impairments which may affect their abilities to make complicated decisions or pursue complex activities. For these individuals, independent living means having every opportunity to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Independent living isn’t easy, and it can be risky. But millions of people with disabilities rate it higher than a life dependency and narrow opportunities and unfulfilled expectations.
What makes independent living centers very different from these other organizations is that centers have substantial involvement of people with disabilities making policy decisions and delivering services. Why this emphasis on control by people with disabilities? The basic idea behind the independent living is that the ones who know best what services people with disabilities need in order to live independently are disabled people themselves.