The much-anticipated “silver wave” starting with the oldest baby boomers, who are turning 75 this year, is about to hit senior living. Waiting for it is an expanding number of tools to help prospective residents and their families select new places to live and to help operators draw those consumers’ attention to specific companies and communities.

The past decade has seen the arrival of the’s Caring Stars program (2012) Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Aging Services lists and J.D. Power’s Senior Living Satisfaction Study (both 2018) and NRC Health’s Customer Approved and Employee Approved Awards (2019) to help operators stand out from their competitors.

Now add to the list U.S. New & World Report’s new “Best Senior Living” program, announced today.

“From an industry perspective,” Eclipse Senior Living CEO Kai Hsiao told me, “it’s great that a brand like U.S. News is now looking at senior living. It goes to show you how far the industry has come. Not only is it recognized by consumers as an option as one ages, but there’s a growing demand to know what separates the many senior living options out there.”

So the senior living industry now has more bragging rights.

U.S. News, of course, already is known for its “Best Nursing Homes” ratings, first published in 2009, among other lists. But as you know, nursing homes are different from senior living communities. U.S. News knows that, too.

Skilled nursing is “a very different market. It’s more of a medical need,” Chad Smolinski, U.S. News’ chief product officer, told me.

With senior living, he added, “Often, there’s a medical need that has driven them to seek a solution, of course, but they’re looking for a living situation that may be for a significant period of time.”

So because senior living is as much or more about the resident’s living experience as it is about older adults’ medical needs, Smolinski said, U.S. News “needed to start looking for different sources of information that are the most relevant for consumers who are making those decisions.” Using surveys of residents and families conducted by Activated Insights, he said, the media brand will have “an opportunity to really bring the voice of the resident, the voice of the family, into the picture.”

The new program represents “a way to accomplish two things if I’m a community,” Smolinski said. “No. 1 is to get accurate information about my community out in front of more families that are considering my community as a living option for themselves or for their loved ones. More information is better,” he said. “It helps people have more confidence in their decisions and, frankly, make better decisions about choosing communities that are matches for them. On top of that, it’s also an opportunity for a community that earned recognition to be able to use that in their messaging with customers and potential customers.”

In other words, operators may have more bragging rights.

You may be thinking, “Of course, U.S. News is going to see a need for its program.” But it appears that more than 2,500 communities also see a need, having already signed up to participate. Among them are Eclipse Senior Living communities.

“From an operator perspective, most people will acknowledge resident satisfaction is key to success for any community,” Hsiao told me. “At Eclipse, we believe the methodology being used by U.S. News is a great way to get a pulse of what we are doing now — and what we could be doing better — to drive that resident satisfaction. We also believe that U.S. News is a trusted source that would be recognized by residents and family members alike.”

As part of the effort, Smolinksi said, U.S. News also plans to beef up the senior living-related content that already exists on its website.

“We’ve had an assisted living directory specifically published on our site with information from a few different sources, including some information that we licensed from,” he said. “We’re looking to build on what we have today to provide more specific guidance to people and really help them narrow down their choices. …We are planning to invest much more significantly and have a really robust library of content to help people in the process.”

My sources are on to something. More information is better. Better for consumers, better for operators and better for the industry. Find out more about the U.S. News “Best Senior Living” program here.

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