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Senior Housing Waiting List 101

Shelli Bakken | Jul 18, 2015

As an adult, you're going to face a number of difficult decisions in providing for your parents and loved ones as they age. Among the most important tasks you'll face is selecting the best possible place for them to live. While you'd no doubt love to care for your parent or loved one, the realities of life (career, children, home, etc.) may prevent you from serving as the best primary care provider for the older adult in your life.

Before you begin the search for adequate senior housing for your parents, you should take some time to read about senior living community types, questions to ask, and how senior housing waiting lists work. In this blog, you'll find helpful information that gets you started on the right foot in your search for senior housing.

What is the Typical Wait Time?


According to, the first wave of Baby Boomers reached retirement age in 2011. By 2030, the number of people over 65 in the United States is expected to reach 71.5 million. As a result, senior housing communities are struggling to keep up with demand for their services. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as noted by, most communities have at least 2 to 3 people on a waiting list.

Publicly subsidized facilities provided through the US government's Housing & Urban Development program have an average wait of two to five years. Wait list times in the state of Minnesota are roughly on par with national wait times, though they can vary based on communication and location.

What to Expect on Senior Housing Waiting Lists

Once you've researched a few different options for senior housing, you're going to encounter a few things that may surprise you. For instance, putting a senior’s name on a wait list isn't as simple as providing basic information. You will often need to put down a deposit with the community to secure a spot on the waiting list. The average wait list deposit ranges from $250 to $2,000, with variations due to the type of facility, area, and availability.

Next, you should ask about agreements and terms that come with the waiting list. For example, some communities will hold a specific apartment or suite for seniors for a set number of days. The average hold period is 15 to 30 days, but can vary. Other senior living communities may offer a first right of refusal instead. In cases where multiple families express interest in a particular room or suite, the first family (with a deposit on file) has the right to claim the apartment or refuse it, opening it up to the next family on the list.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about wait list details at specific communities to get the information you need. Knowing as much as possible will help you make a confident, comfortable decision.

Benefits of Getting on a Senior Housing Waiting List

Signing up for a senior housing waiting list is important because it is a cautious approach to securing future care for older adults. Getting on the wait list allows you to reserve a favorite apartment, room, or suite without making a commitment to one certain residence. If a room opens up elsewhere, many communities refund your deposit and you can get into a safe environment sooner.

In fact, once you've got your spot on a wait list, some communities allow potential residents to participate in community activities and programs available to residents only. This provides both seniors and their loved ones with the opportunity to experience everyday life in that particular community, and determine ahead of time if it is a good fit.

Questions to Ask

Never be afraid to ask questions of the senior living community you are consider. A few helpful questions to ask are:

  • Is the wait list open-ended?
  • Is the deposit a set amount or does it fluctuate?
  • Is the deposit refundable?
  • Will I be notified when my spot on the list changes?
  • How long is the average wait?


The answers to these questions will help you determine the value of remaining on or signing up initially for a senior housing waiting list. Remember that wait lists are a fact of life, but with proper planning you can ensure the care you need – and deserve – is received in a timely fashion.

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