As a Summer Youth Employment Program intern, one of my projects was to research available housing options for older people in and around Seattle. One thing that interested me was learning how long wait times can be for affordable senior housing with services.
Access to senior housing facilities has long been an issue for older people and adults with disabilities. Many of the housing facilities require older adults to wait three to four years and sometimes six or more years for an opening. This amount of wait time may not seem that long for younger people, but when it comes to older adults and people with disabilities, it sure does. This is important to acknowledge this in order to advocate for the provision of more housing for older people.
According to “How Long Does It Take to Get Into Assisted Living” (U.S. News), the majority of the housing facilities do not have a time limit on their waiting lists, meaning that people can wait anywhere from six months or six years. Waitlist policies are different in every facility. Nationally, the approximate wait time has yet to be determined. Many families have found it hard to get a place in an assisted living facility due to the waiting times. Waitlists can expand rapidly. Some senior housing managers even close their applications.
These challenges make it tough for older people as they age. It is important to help keep older adults or people with disabilities safe, and senior housing facilities are designed to help seniors have easier access to daily routines, but the length of time they wait to get in can affect their accessibility and safety needs.
According to “Long Waiting Lists Displacing Seniors From the South End” (South Seattle Emerald) in there were more than 2,640 people on Seattle Housing Authority’s (SHA) housing waitlist in 2018. All of them were waiting for the Senior Housing Program.
Sometimes applicants are at risk of losing their spots. Checking in from time to time can decrease the waiting time, but many older people do not have the ability or mobility to do so.
Other strategies that can help include planning ahead—applying for senior housing before it’s needed—and advocating for an increase in senior housing units overall. The more housing units there are, the more people can get access. A sufficient supply of senior housing units means fewer older people would worry and more older people would have their needs met. Advocating for timely access to affordable housing designed specifically for aging in place is critical.
Contributor Nghi Xoi served a Seattle Youth Employment Program internship with Age Friendly Seattle this summer. She is a student at Franklin High School who also attends Seattle Central College as a Running Start participant, with plans to continue studies in computer science, technology, and coding.