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Senior Housing Waitlist: How They Work and Best Practices

Housing | August 11, 2023

A senior man is using his tablet to check his place on the senior living waitlist.

Waitlists are increasingly common amongst most retirement communities. When the time comes for seniors and their caregivers to decide on their future accommodations, they need to be aware that they might be met with wait times that can last for years depending on their income restrictions and the type of community. 

As millions of Baby Boomers begin to retire, senior housing availability has limited across the board (independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing), with occupancy rates hitting 83%. High occupancy rates can often narrow the options for seniors and their families when their situation requires a hurried decision.

It’s critical to know how senior housing waitlists work so that you can have an easier search for the right senior living community. Fortunately, we’re here to help you better understand waitlists and what best practices can help you eliminate any unnecessary wait times.

How Do Senior Housing Waiting Lists Work? 

Once you have decided and been accepted into a retirement community, you will most likely be placed on a waiting list for that program. Wait times can vary greatly depending on a wide array of factors such as;

  • The type of community
  • Room availability
  • Location
  • Income restrictions
  • Time of year of application
  • Special circumstances

Each factor will have some bearing on the amount of time you will have to wait. For instance, if you are applying for affordable senior housing, you are more likely going to face longer wait times as the demand for affordable housing is much greater than that of a self-pay community. 

Since most senior housing is typically distributed on a first-come, first-served basis – you should try to apply as early as possible. The application processing time to get on the waiting list for senior housing may vary depending on the specific complexities of each applicant and the time of the year. You will also need to consider the location of the facility as certain regions might have less availability than others.

Keep in mind that while some seniors can experience extended wait times, not every community has long wait lists. When applying, make sure to ask what the current waitlist looks like and when you can expect to move in. 

Certain communities may have a “waitlist,” but still have open apartments because seniors further ahead on the list have moved elsewhere, haven’t sold their current home, are currently in the hospital, or just want to stay on the list to maintain a spot.

Affordable Senior Housing Waitlists 

While there are some similarities between affordable senior housing waitlists and market-rate communities, there are a few crucial distinctions to keep in mind when applying. Every subsidized affordable senior community must follow the waitlist rules laid out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), state Low Income Housing Tax Credit  (LIHTC), as well as any additional regulatory bodies in the area where a senior is applying.

Senior Housing Waitlist Best Practices

No senior wants to spend their retirement years waiting for an apartment in their desired community to become available. Whether you’re still in the application process or already on a waiting list, it’s important to follow some best practices to reduce the duration of your wait.

Plan Ahead If Possible 

It is recommended that you should be proactive about your move into a retirement community if your situation allows. Not every senior has the chance to plan ahead regarding this decision as circumstances can change quickly. 

If you do have the opportunity to consider a community before your situation demands it, you will have more time to consider preferred amenities and location. Proactive seniors and caregivers can act quickly to get their name on the waitlist of their ideal retirement community, giving them better odds of being accepted in a timely manner.

Explore Your Options

If you are considering getting on a waiting list for you or your loved one – take the time to investigate which community is right for you. It is important to consider factors such as amenities, location, cost, and occupancy rate during your decision-making process. Once you decide which factors are most important, you can narrow your choices down and have a better understanding of what you will need to do to get into that specific community.

Avoid Turning Down an Offer 

Certain communities have policies turning down an offer. If a potential resident has reached the top of a waiting list and is offered housing on multiple occasions and turns the offer down each time, they can be demoted to the bottom of the list. 

Make sure that you do not fail to respond when the retirement community contacts you as you might miss out on a housing opportunity if you don’t respond. It is highly recommended that you regularly check your mail and respond on time to any request.

Periodically Check-In 

Communities that you have applied to are required to periodically reach out to see if you still qualify and are interested in moving in.  It’s important to let them know if your situation has changed and if you are still interested in remaining on the waitlist.

Reaching out to the facility you are applying to can also be valuable in keeping up to date on any ongoings or renovations taking place. From new owners to updated offerings, staying informed can help confirm you picked the right location.

Ask Questions 

You should never be afraid to ask a lot of questions about senior housing waiting lists. Asking a lot of questions will allow you to know as much as possible about a potential community so that you can make an informed decision. To help clarify details about the application process, you can ask questions such as:

  • What are your current wait times for openings?
  • Will I be notified whenever there are changes in my position on the waiting list?
  • What conditions might qualify for special placement?
  • Are there any amenities I could access while waiting for placement?

Find the Right Senior Housing Option with National Church Residences 

Whether you’re looking for an independent living facility or affordable housing, it’s important to know exactly what to expect during your search. The first step to finding the right retirement community is to reach out to a dependable leader in senior housing who can help guide you through the process. National Church Residences offers an individual approach to support seniors throughout their retirement. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.