SENIOR HOUSING WAIT LISTS – What You Need to Know.
Bruce B. Rosenblatt – Senior Housing Solutions
There is much to learn about waiting lists at Senior Living Communities. Understanding these basics will help you become better prepared. Here are some good tips for you:
THE NAME GAME
Senior Communities call their wait lists many different names such as Priority Club, Premier Club, Ambassador Club, etc. Some start-up communities or communities under expansion will create a separate list for early depositors. These folks will have “priority” when the actual residence is available to sell. Usually, during the priority phase, the initial deposit is fully refundable until the conversion takes place. It is highly rare that a community will complete the medical assessment at the time of becoming a priority member and will wait until someone actually reserves a specific apartment.
Every community handles their wait list deposit differently. Some require a non-refundable deposit while others offer a fully refundable option. The amount of the deposit varies from community to community. Typically, a non-refundable model carries more weight since wait list members have something to lose if they back out. Even with a non-refundable deposit, there could be situations where it would be refunded, especially if someone passes away or has a change in their health. It is good to understand the terms of the agreement before you sign up.
FIRST RIGHT OF REFUSAL
Having the option to refuse an apartment when offered is very attractive to many people. Since timing is an unknown variable, some people want the option to either accept or refuse an apartment when offered. It is important to note that if you have been waiting for a certain floor plan and/or location and it becomes available, you might want to seriously consider accepting it, since you have no idea when the next one might become available. The other pitfall to avoid is waiting too long and not being medically approved.
INTERNAL vs. EXTERNAL
It is common that senior communities maintain an internal AND external wait list. An internal wait list comprises of people/residents who are already living at the community. These folks take priority over external wait list members, therefore if you are on an external wait list and are waiting for a highly desirable floor plan and/or location, there could be a good chance, a current resident is also waiting for the same residence.
Some communities offer a program for someone to become a resident without physically moving in. Sometimes these are called “ghosts.” A ghost member pays a reduced entrance fee and monthly fee, is medically approved, and has priority over external wait list members. A ghost member usually has certain resident privileges at the community including access to the on-site health care center.
THE THREE STRIKE RULE
Some communities institute a “three strike rule” on their wait list, meaning if you turn them down three times, you are dropped to the bottom of the list. It is good to know ‘the rules of the game’ before you place your wait list deposit.
Most communities will not guarantee you medical approval when you join their wait list. This is because the wait list does commit you to a specific time frame, especially if you have the first right of refusal. Some might do a preliminary approval, so you have an idea of where you stand, and will update your medical history if your wait time goes beyond a certain period of time. It is imperative you understand this feature of the wait list, since many people put ‘all their eggs in one basket’ to move to a specific community to find out later, they have been denied.
KNOW THY NUMBERS
Knowing how many people are on are on the list is a good first step. Knowing how these numbers break down by unit type and the annual turnover percentage rate will help you better gauge your timing, however if you are waiting for a two bedroom and many couples live in two bedrooms at this community, you could be waiting for a long period of time, because you are basically waiting for two people to move out. If there is an internal wait list, it is important to know these numbers as well.
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME
Try to identify multiple floorplans and locations you might desire. This will help provide more opportunities for you. The narrower you are in your selection, the lower the percentage of being offered what you want. Some of our clients have their names at a couple of different senior communities in order to expand their choices. It is advisable to keep this confidential.
PUT YOUR TOE IN THE WATER
If you are on a wait list, you should stay in frequent contact with your chosen community so they are aware of your status, and you can be updated on future availabilities. If possible, you should try to participate in some community programs and events while you are waiting. This will help you become acclimated to the community lifestyle, staff, and meet other residents well before the moving truck arrives.
If we can be of any assistance understanding the wait list program at your desired community, please reach out to us at www.seniorhousingsolutions.net or call 239-595-0207.
There are 74.9 million Baby Boomers, which represents almost 40% of the nation’s population. As this group starts to age, senior living communities are adapting to the cruise-ship mentality of this generation. Here are some of the ways:
1). FLEXIBLE DINING SERVICES
Many senior living communities now offer flexible dining hours, a variety of dining venues (casual to formal), chef presentations and vouchers which can be used to purchase meals, liquor and even groceries. Menus are heart healthy and many offer gluten-free choices, freshly grown herbs, organic vegetables, grass-fed meat, free range poultry and sustainable seafood. “To go” menus are available for those who desire to dine in the comfort of their own residence.
2). ABUNDANT FITNESS / WELLNESS PROGRAMS
Baby boomers want to stay active and healthy. Tai chi, yoga, Zumba and even Pilates are now norms at some senior living communities. Fully-equipped fitness centers with personal trainers, lap pools, tennis, pickleball, bocce and even golf are often available. On-site spa services are common which includes a variety of massages, facials and pedicures.
3). LARGER APARTMENTS / UPSCALE FINISHES
Today’s senior community residences are no longer designed for a single elderly individual, but instead are more suited for couples who want large open floor plans with plenty of closets and ambient lighting. Kitchens have modern stainless steel appliances, granite or quartz counter tops and upscale cabinetry. Bathrooms are luxurious but also have safety devices so residents can age in place.
Baby boomers are internet savvy and spend many hours of their day on the computer. Senior living communities now offer internet cafés and personal residences are wi-fi compatible. Some communities actually provide a tablet to each resident so they can reserve seats for entertainment or see the daily menu.
5). CONTINUING EDUCATION CLASSES
Continuing Education is huge for today’s baby boomers. Senior living communities offer programs either online or live with university professors. There are even some senior living communities located on campuses of major universities so residents can attend classes to further their education.
6). ART INSTRUCTION / CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
Access to creative types of programs is important to today’s Baby Boomer. Many senior living communities offer painting classes, photography, pottery and wood working. Cultural programs either on-site or nearby are frequently available to the residents of the community. Investment clubs, wine tastings, book groups and card playing are enjoyed.
7). HIGHER ENTRANCE FEE REFUNDS
Senior living communities now offer entrance fee refunds as much as 90% to provide residents the flexibility to move out, leave to their estate or to a charity of their choice. Baby Boomers are philanthropic and leaving a legacy is important to them.
Baby boomers want to remain active in the local community through their place of worship or local charity. Senior living communities embrace these folks by hosting on-site events, providing transportation and contributing to many local organizations. Residents can also volunteer to serve on several resident council committees or be a welcome ambassador to new residents moving in.
9). MAINTENANCE-FREE LIVING
No longer being concerned with home maintenance and repairs allows today’s residents more freedom to enjoy their life and pursue traveling, taking up a new hobby or perfecting an existing one. Not wasting time waiting for a repairman or being concerned about the cost of the repair are major benefits of living in a senior living community.
10). ACCESS TO ON-SITE HEALTH CARE
Being proactive and pre-planning is in the DNA of a baby Boomer. Knowing that there is health care available provides peace of mind. Baby Boomers do not want to be a burden their spouse or to their children as they age. Some senior living communities even offer on-site physicians services which adds another level of convenience.
In summary, Baby Boomers are reshaping senior housing. The age wave is here and these changes to the senior housing industry will have long lasting effects.
Selecting a senior living community is not an easy task. These are common questions we get asked.
My children live up north, should I move to be with them?
As a son whose mom lives nearby, I truly understand the importance of having family close. Fortunately, we both live here in Southwest Florida, and we can be part of each other’s lives. The idea of moving out of state to be nearer to children is a big decision that involves many factors and changes. First and foremost, is the question of whether you are ready to give up your current lifestyle? Do you have friends or a social network in their area, or will you be depending upon your children to provide you with the socialization you need? Will you live with them, or will you find a place of your own? You will need to think about changing your primary care physician and specialists, your bank, and your church. How comfortable will you be driving during winter conditions? Will the winter weather hamper your activity level and lessen your independence? Are your children committed to continuing to live in that area, or could their careers take them to another location? What happens if they retire, will they want to stay in that location? As you can see, there are many factors involved in deciding to move closer to your children. I would recommend before making that decision, to visit the senior living communities in this area. You may be able to fulfill yours and your children’s desire for security and peace of mind without such a drastic change.
If I move to a senior living community, do I need to change doctors?
When you live at a senior living community, you can continue the relationship you have with your primary care physician and specialists. As a convenience to the residents, many communities do have relationships with physicians and these doctors maintain clinic hours at the senior living community. You are under no obligation to use these doctors; however, residents find it time saving and worthwhile to establish a relationship with a physician on site. If you decide to keep your physician, most senior living communities provide transportation to and from your medical appointments to make life a little easier for you.
I want to move to a senior living community, but my husband does not. What should we do?
It is very common for one spouse to not be on the same page as the other when considering a senior living community. Many times, it is hard for someone to think forward and contemplate scenarios when they are less independent. Most likely, your current residence will not be suitable as you advance in age. It is not sensible to believe your health will remain as it is for the rest of your life. Share with your husband that not putting a plan in place now would place the entire burden on your shoulders if something should happen to him in the future. It is easier to make the move when you are both able to select a community together, sell your home together, pack and move together, and make new friends together. Hopefully, he will recognize the importance of protecting you and creating a life which you both can continue to enjoy for many years.
There are so many senior living communities to consider in our area, where do I start?
Locating a senior living community that meets your needs and preferences is not easy, especially if you try to do it alone. As a senior housing advisor, this is exactly what we do. We get to know you and discuss which options best fit your needs and preferences. We are familiar with all the options in the area and the nuances of each. We help you narrow down the search and create a road map of places that meet your requirements. We are also familiar with the new communities on the horizon and have much insight about a community’s operational history. If desired, we can join you on your tour and ask questions you may not know to ask. We help you understand the terms of the contract and even negotiate the fees, as appropriate. Trying to do it alone is a monumental task. The last thing you want to do is move somewhere and be unaware that the community is experiencing financial or operational issues. Taping into a knowledgeable resource will help you avoid these pitfalls.
Please explain how the refund programs work at Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)/ Life Plan Communities?
CCRCs/Life Plan Communities offer a variety of entrance fee refund programs – 0%, 50%, 75% and even 95% refunds. The entrance fee is typically earned by the community at a rate of 1% to 2% per month. There is usually a 2% to 4% administration fee earned during the first month. Each month that you live at a CCRC, a percentage is deducted (earned) from the entrance fee that you paid. If you select the 0% refund plan, your entrance fee refund will decline over 4 – 7 years until your refund reaches zero. On the other hand, if you select the 50%, 75% or 95% plan, your estate will have a set amount refunded. If you opt for a higher refund program, you will pay an “up charge” for these plans as compared to the 0% refund program. Basically, you pay more upfront to be guaranteed a higher refund.
Some communities will offer different refund programs based on their health care plans. For example, a community might offer a 95% refund, but you would also be responsible for paying for higher levels of care as needed. It is wise to consult with your attorney and financial advisor to determine which plan best fits your needs.
Are there resources available for low income seniors in our area?
Collier Senior Resources at the Golden Gate Senior Center has funding to provide financial assistance to low-income seniors in need. Call Maritza for more information at 239-252-4550. The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is another valuable resource. The Area Agency on Aging is committed to connecting older adults and adults with disabilities to resources and assistance for living safely with independence and dignity. They can be reached at 239-652-6900.
Are there any upcoming educational seminars for area seniors?
The Leadership Coalition on Aging (LCA) is conducting their Empowerment Series Panel Discussion on Sept. 13 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Collier County South Regional Library. The topic will be Advanced Planning – Getting your Affairs in Order. It will feature an attorney, a physician, an accountant, and a real estate professional. The event is free. For more information, please call 239-595-0207.
To have your senior housing questions answered in a future article, please submit your questions to: [email protected]
Senior Housing Expert and Advisor Bruce Rosenblatt is the owner of Senior Housing Solutions.