Terrible food, a clinical atmosphere and lonely nights: that’s the grim vision many people conjure up when thinking about senior living communities.

And like a bad dream, it has little basis in reality. Senior living has come a long way over the past half century, although many myths and rumors still persist.

These are some of the biggest falsities about senior living, countered by what you can actually expect from modern retirement communities.

Myth #1: I’ll Lose my Independence

A retirement community does not mean you will face strict lights-out time or an authoritarian daily regimen designed by the staff.

In reality, the only independence you give up is for mundane things, like your freedom to mow the lawn and clean house. Since these chores are taken care of, you actually gain independence because you get to spend your time exactly as you wish.

If you’re no longer able to drive, most retirement communities have transportation services to take you throughout the surrounding community.

And don’t expect to be forced into activities or clubs. That’s up to you, too.

Myth #2: I Won’t Have Any Friends

Your school days may be long gone, but thinking about arriving at a retirement community could bring back sweaty-palmed memories of being the new kid in class.

But in reality, meeting new people in your senior living community is something you should look forward to.

“Your neighbor could turn out to be someone who has the most fascinating background, and you could learn things from them,” says Joan Woodworth, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Front Porch. “You will definitely find people in the same community that have similar interests and things in common.”

You can also match the retirement home to your personality.

Like meeting lots of people? Start visiting communities with lots of residents. Prefer to keep it more quiet and cozy? Consider some small, close-knit ones.

And of course, friends and family are welcome to visit or possibly stay overnight.

Myth #3: The Decor Will Be Depressing

Many retirement communities are fashioned more like chic hotels instead of the dreary places you’ve seen in old movies.

Retirement communities want to attract business, so they’re looking to impress. They could have rooftop pools, outdoor and indoor fireplaces, theaters, club houses, computer centers, cafes, patio dining and ocean views.

And if you have emotional attachment to some furniture, don’t worry: many retirement communities will let you bring in your own furniture, so long as you have room for it.

Myth #4: The Food Will Stink

Lining up for cafeteria-style food slopped on a plate is a thing of the past. Retirement communities can offer culinary delights by way of restaurant-trained chefs, big menus, a wait staff and multiple dining venues.

There may also be the option to order off the menu, order delivery or just cook at home if you choose to.

Myth #5: I Shouldn’t Go Until I Can’t Take Care of Myself

While continuing care communities are an excellent way of getting the proper care you require, you don’t need to wait.

“The time to do it is when you can,” says Woodworth. That’s when “you are in the driver’s seat.”

Entering into retirement communities early in one’s retirement years isn’t uncommon–it’s a good way to secure a spot in a popular community and an even better way to take full advantage of that community’s offerings.

With senior communities catering to artists, those with active lifestyles, military veterans and even postal workers, retirement communities are offering more than they ever have.