2023 Caring Stars badge

Atria Senior Living once again topped this year’s “Caring Stars 2023” list of 329 senior living and care communities recognized by review and referral website  Caring.com. 

Louisville, KY-based Atria, which also topped last year’s list, had 49 communities — 30 of which are Holiday by Atria communities — on this year’s list of best senior living communities and nursing homes based on online ratings and reviews from residents and their families. The winners were announced today.

Caring Reviews Program Manager and Marketing Director Denise Graab told McKnight’s Senior Living that it’s no surprise that Atria maintained its top status, adding that the corporate office has made a point of dedicating resources to its online reputation and engaging with its individual communities to solicit valid reviews.

Atria was followed by Senior Village Management, with 41 communities, and Pacifica Senior Living, with 16 communities. Next, Brookdale Senior Living, Integral Senior Living and Sonida Senior Living tied, with 12 communities each. 

This year’s list includes 329 senior living communities in 39 states, with California (62), Texas (30) and Florida (27) having the most winners. Those states also had the highest number of winners in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016

To make the list, communities had to have an overall average rating of at least 4.5 out of 5 stars and public-facing business responses to any one- or two-star negative reviews. Winners also had to meet specific criteria for review volume and recency and have at least one five-star published review in 2022.

Launched in 2012, the Caring Stars program is open to any independent living, assisted living or memory care community, or nursing home, with a profile on the Charlotte, NC-based website’s nationwide directory, which serves as a resource for family caregivers.

This year’s criteria were adjusted to accommodate residential care homes that have a capacity of 20 or fewer residents compared with communities with a capacity of 21 or more residents. Graab said the difference is in the number of total reviews and the number of total recent reviews required

Larger communities must have an overall average rating of 4.5 out of five stars and must have at least 15 published reviews across all time, up from 10 reviews. They also must have had at least four published reviews — up from three — between Oct. 15, 2021, and Oct. 15, 2022, with at least one 5-star review this year. In addition, large communities must have responded to all 1- and 2-star negative reviews.

Graab said that after studying the effects of reviews for senior living communities over five years, Caring found that the “sweet spot” for influencing online senior living searches was between 15 and 16 reviews. She also recommended that communities have at least one review per quarter at a minimum.

“That is the number they [prospects] want to see to inquire, tour or select a community, at a minimum,” she said. “We changed that criteria to shifts in consumer demand and what the data was telling us was most influential for consumers.”

To be included, smaller communities also must have had an overall average rating of 4.5 stars but only need five reviews across all time. Those communities also must have had two published reviews between Oct. 15, 2021, and Oct. 15, 2022, with at least one 5-star review this year. They, too, must have responded to all negative reviews.

Graab said the change was made to make the criteria fairer for smaller communities to qualify, adding that it could take years for them to be able to qualify under the old rules. 

The remaining criteria to be acknowledged in the program did not change because Caring found them to be proven metrics. Power Reviews and BrightLocal, two third-party research firms, recently published studies from various organizations that found that consumers won’t even consider a community with an overall average rating below 4 stars, with the ideal star rating falling between 4.5 and 4.99 stars, she said.

Graab said the updated criteria means that the pool of winners from previous years is slightly smaller — last year, 439 communities made the list compared with this year’s 329 — but she said that the changes improve the integrity of the program. She added that, unlike other awards programs, there is no application process, no charge for resident surveys and no licensing of badge fees. 

Caring also conducts an integrity audit of reviews and undertakes other quality assurance measures, including screening finalist communities using licensing and inspection reports on state agency websites, she said. The company said that Caring Star winners in 2021 and 2022 attracted almost twice as many new resident inquiries and almost three times as many move-ins as community partners without the award.