Inside the Senior Living Search Misnomer

Only 12% of baby boomers are actively searching for senior living options online — either for themselves or for aging parents or loved ones. But for those who are seeking information, they may not be looking in the right places, according to Google data and survey responses.

“When it comes to actually beginning the search for senior living, we uncovered that, within our survey, about one in three boomers were uncertain about what specific type of senior living to consider,” said Google’s Cathy Smith, head of industry for its social and information vertical during a recent Caring.com webinar. 

In October 2014, the Silicon Valley tech giant surveyed more than 2,000 boomers between ages 50 and 69, asking them a variety of questions to learn more about their search for senior living. 

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And despite previous data showing that the term “assisted living” is used more frequently by consumers looking for industry-related housing online, Google’s data based on search trends among all Internet users shows the opposite. 

In fact, Google Trends shows that between January 2013 and April 2015, the term “nursing home” had roughly twice the search volume of “assisted living,” said Marc Heneghan, senior analytical lead for the social and information vertical at Google.

“This means roughly twice as many people are searching for nursing homes as [are searching for] assisted living,” he added, noting that the term assisted living nets an average of 516,660 monthly searches. 

It could be that more people simply need the high level of services that skilled nursing communities provide. However, there is also a general misunderstanding of the senior living options — and care levels — available for aging adults, said Katie Roper, vice president of sales at Caring.com, an online resource that helps seniors and their families search for various senior living and care options.

“There certainly are people who are specifically looking for what we in the industry would call a SNF or nursing home,” she said. “But there are also lots and lots of people — probably at least half — who are typing in ‘nursing homes’ but who actually don’t need a SNF and would be fine with living in an [assisted living community].”

This, Heneghan said, reiterates the importance of educating prospective residents, and the public at large, on the differences in senior housing and care options.

“There’s definitely an opportunity to educate these people,” he said. “You can say ‘Did you really mean nursing home or did you mean this?’”

Written by Emily Study

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