Waiting Lists at Senior Living Communities

You’ve made the decision to downsize. You find the perfect senior community with all the amenities you have your heart set on, in an idyllic location. You put your house on the market. You’re set full speed ahead for fabulous retirement living! You’re ready to move — but when you call, your community of choice is at capacity and has a one-year waiting list. Well if that doesn’t put a wrench in your plans, we don’t know what does.

It’s a tough reality in the process of moving to a senior living community, but with adequate planning, it’s one you can use to your advantage. To better understand the ins and outs of the process at many senior communities, and to learn how it can apply to you, here’s a detailed look at some things to think about when considering retirement living waiting lists.

1. Understand how the community uses the waiting list. It’s no surprise that senior living communities have a limited number of apartments/rooms in any given building and/or level of care. It also probably comes as no surprise that waiting lists are almost always implemented to establish consistencies in how prospective residents express interest and secure an apartment offering. The details of how each individual community chooses to operate their waiting list system will vary, so it’s always worth asking about. In most cases, there will be a (possibly refundable) fee to join the list and a first-come-first-offered system. Some communities may have some flexibility to work with an individual with extenuating circumstances, so it doesn’t hurt to ask

2. Determine when it’s time to add your name to the list. Is there such thing as adding your or a loved one’s name to a waiting list too early? What’s easier to answer is there is such thing as being too late to join a waiting list. Unfortunately, it’s all too often that someone has waited too long, often with a tight timeline of housing or care needs, and has no choice but to go to another community instead. Join a waiting list early! Ask your community of choice if there’s a limit to how long one can wait on the list, if you may “pass” if your name comes up but you’re not quite ready yet, and any other nuances that may apply with their policy.

3. Realize the benefit of securing your options now.  A “foot in the door” provides peace of mind and an option for your future. At most communities, your name on a list does not bind you to a commitment to move in, so it’s worth the investment of time and money now to secure a prospective option.

4. Ask about waiting list deposit fees. Waiting list deposits can vary from community to community, so this is a specific question to ask as you inquire about the process. A flat fee of $500-$1,500 or one months’ rent is common, and in many cases, they’re refundable if you should change your mind. Be prepared to ask, and be ready to get your checkbook out.

If there’s a community you’ve had your eye on, don’t be shy about calling, gathering more information, and even going on a tour, regardless of if your timeline places a move in the near future or some time from now. You’ll be pleased to be ahead of the game when it comes time for a move!