Senior Housing & Assisted Living - Understanding Waiting Lists & Future Planning

The change in circumstances requiring a Senior to move into Senior Housing may occur suddenly, with a decision having to be made quickly.  This may be the case if a Senior suffers a fall or a stroke or any life event which significantly

affects their ability to live safely in their current environment. 


In this situation there may be limited availability of the appropriate retirement community, independent living facility, or nursing home for the Senior.  

Senior housing across all categories (independent living, assisted living, memory care,  and skilled nursing) reported an almost 90% occupancy for the fourth quarter of 2016.   This high occupancy rate narrows the choices for Seniors and their families when the situation requires a hurried decision.

When There is Time to Plan for Senior Housing

If a Senior or their family can anticipate the need for a move into Senior Housing, it can be a prudent move to get on a waiting list (or lists) as soon as possible.  By investigating the facilities which are geographically acceptable and which meet the anticipated requirement for this next phase of a Senior’s life, everyone is better prepared to make the move and comforted in knowing that pre-planning has increased the odds of the most appropriate Senior Housing selection for the circumstances.

Senior Facilities Waiting List Basics

Many facilities provide the ability for a prospective Senior to be placed on a waiting list.  In fact some even require it.  A waiting list requires a deposit which may range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.  Generally those who have been on the waiting list the longest will be given the highest priority, but each community will have their own unique approach including:

  • Existing residents  (also known as an internal waiting list)  – In some senior communities, particularly CCRSs (Continuing Care Residential Communities), existing residents will get first priority even if someone not in the community has been on the list for a longer period of time.  These residents may not get their first choice when they move in but may be allowed to “move up” to the unit that best suits their needs once they are in.
  • Three strike rule - If a potential resident has moved to the top of a waiting list and is offered housing on three different occasions and turns the offer down each time, they are moved to the bottom of the list.
  • Open ended list – This is fairly common and allows a Senior to stay on the list even if offered a unit which is turned down because they are not yet ready to move.

Before You Get on a Waiting List

If you are contemplating getting on a waiting list for your Senior or yourself,  take the time to investigate the options.  The type of community, location, cost, and available amenities are important considerations in your decision process.  Visit the facilities that are candidates and take a firsthand look.  When you have narrowed your choices, get some references of your top two or three facilities.  

Once You are on a Waiting List(s)

Stay Informed

When you have put deposits on one or more facilities, even if a move is not imminent, stay informed of your choices for any news, positive or negative.  Facilities go through their ups and downs, change owners, etc. and you want to make sure that if you or your Senior do move in, that all is as you anticipated.

Periodically Check In

Make sure you are still on the list! Periodically, check in with your contact at any facility where you are “Wait Listed”.  You can make sure that your place in line is secure and by periodically speaking to a person on the facility’s staff you may learn something which makes you alter your course.

Participate When Possible

Some facilities encourage potential residents to visit and participate in their activities. This can make a Senior fit in quicker, or if they find that the activities are not appealing it may be a factor in deciding to look elsewhere for Senior Housing.

We are Here To Help

The Senioridy website offers several tools to make your Senior Living Options Easier and more manageable. By using our Mapping tools you can find a place that is in a convenient location, with our My Favorites Feature you can save a list of your selected facilities and return to it at anytime to remember which facilities you felt were the best fit for your needs. Each facility's listing includes a contact form that submits directly to the facility so that you can easily arrange a tour and ask any questions of them, and every phone number direct dials the facility itself and can be clicked on a mobile phone for so that you don't even have to dial.

If you ever need help please know that you can reach out to us at (205) 516-4763 or contact us at

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Section 202 Housing - Low Income Senior Living

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