Caring.com is recognizing more than 800 assisted living and memory care communities as part of the online senior care resource and review site’s fourth annual “Caring Stars” award program.
“We were surprised by the number of winners this year,” Andy Cohen, cofounder and CEO of Caring.com, tells SHN, noting the number of winners doubled from last year’s 405. “Because the number of reviews on our site has increased to over 70,000 [versus 50,000 this time last year], the number of Caring Stars has risen — that was the biggest surprise.”
Caring.com announced the 805 winners Tuesday, with 33 being honored for three or more year wins with the distinction of “Caring Super Stars,” including Atria Windsor Woods in Hudson, Fla., and Brookdale at San Dimas in San Dimas, Calif.
Both Atria Windsor Woods and Brookdale at San Dimas have won every year the program has been in place.
Smaller providers who stood out this year include Worchester, Mass.-based Dodge Park Rest Home and Winchester, Va.-based The Willows at Meadow Branch. Both are independently operated and owned.
“Online reviews have been important to us from day one,” says Micha Shalev, administrator and co-founder of Caring Super Stars winner Dodge Park, a 60-resident rest home. “You can have a good year, or a bad year financially — but your reputation is a gold mine.”
Two-time Caring Stars winner and assisted living facility The Willows at Meadow Branch also places a high value on online reviews.
“We look at ourselves as a family, and that comes across in the reviews,” says Linda Duvall, administrator at The Willows At Meadow Branch. “We’re honored that people have taken the effort to go online and write about us.”
A Caring Stars award is the “Michelin Star for senior living,” Cohen says, noting that winners often promote their award status to local media, host award ceremonies and more.
“It is a third-party validation of their quality,” he says.
Any assisted living or Alzheimer’s care community listed in the Senior Care Directory on Caring.com is eligible for the Caring Stars award, and having a business relationship with Caring.com does not affect eligibility.
This year, over half of the winners do not have a business relationship with Caring.com, he says.
To be considered for Caring Stars 2015, the community had to: receive at least three new consumer reviews between Dec. 1, 2013 and Dec. 1, 2014, including at least one 5-star review; possess a high overall average rating across all reviews on their listing; and have no unresolved negative reviews, to demonstrate responsiveness to online feedback.
Larger communities tend to be more proactive with encouraging residents and their families to post reviews, and are more responsive to negative reviews, he says, noting that 19.5% of Brookdale Senior Living communities, 22% of Sunrise Senior Living communities and about 26% of Atria Senior Living communities received Caring Stars awards.
“Reviews are more important than your website,” he says. “Consumers want to know you’re listening. Even responding to positive reviews, not just negative reviews, can go a long way [in establishing a quality lead].”
Online reviews have become the first stop for the majority of senior living shoppers, research shows.
Seventy-three percent of Americans say they would pay more for a community with favorable online reviews, and 82% say they use online reviews as part of their assisted living selection research, according to a recent study by assisted living software review and research company Software Advice.
“When we started this, some communities were wary of these reviews, but there’s no turning back at this point,” he says. “Consumers are increasingly looking at online reputations to help them decide where to tour. Online reviews help them narrow their search, and so they’ve become of increasing importance to them.”
The Caring Stars program has grown from 120 winners in 2012, 383 winners in 2013, and 405 winners in 2014, to the 805 announced Tuesday, who are located in 43 states and 323 counties across the country.
Visit the list of Caring.com’s best-rated assisted living and memory care communities here.
Written by Cassandra Dowell