More than 1,200 senior living communities operated by more than 80 companies have another way to stand out among their peers starting this morning, as the inaugural U.S. News & World Report’s Best Senior Living ratings were announced.

Online profile pages featuring all recognized communities share community details, areas where they were judged to excel by residents and their families, and accolades and testimonials to help older adults and their families evaluate places to live.

In addition to yielding information for consumers, the process provides participating providers with marketing fodder and information that enables them to compare themselves with peer communities across various dimensions of satisfaction.

“I think providers will benefit from increased consumer visibility and trust,” Activated Insights CEO Jacquelyn Kung, DrPH, MBA, told McKnight’s Senior Living. Activated Insights administered the surveys and collected the data that were analyzed by U.S. News to produce the “Best” ratings.

With the publication of the 2022 list, senior living communities join nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and other businesses evaluated and profiled by U.S. News. Designations covering the industry include Best Independent Living, Best Assisted Living, Best Memory Care and Best Continuing Care Retirement Communities.

“The one theme that we have heard is that many organizations are really glad that U.S. News is doing this, because I think the perception on the part of executive leadership in many of these organizations is that right now, what’s available to consumers online in terms of decision support tools are not all that reliable, because they have commercial interests that may drive what content they serve to consumers,” Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis for U.S. News and World Report, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We know that everyone is going to make their own personalized decisions with their family and their support network, and that’s important. …We are trying to provide them with readily accessible, free information.”

U.S. News and Activated Insights collected data on more than 3,000 participating communities throughout the continental United States and Hawaii, representing 83 senior living operators. From that data set, U.S. News analysts identified 1,274 communities deemed to excel in independent living, assisted living and/or memory care. In all, 303 communities were recognized for independent living, 767 were recognized for assisted living and 499 were recognized for memory care, with some communities being recognized in more than one area.

Only 25 communities were recognized in all three areas. Companies with more than one community among the 25 include HumanGood (4), Discovery Senior Living (3), Belmont Village Senior Living (2) and Kisco Senior Living (2). Other organizations with communities on the list of 25 included The Arbor Company, Arrow Senior Living, Bridges Senior Living, Bridgewater Retirement Community, Franciscan Communities, Garden Spot, Gencare Lifestyle, Legend Senior Living, Life Care Services, New Perspective, Senior Lifestyle, Senior Star, Sonida Senior Living and Three Pillars Senior Living Communities.

HumanGood President and CEO John Cochrane told McKnight’s Senior Living that he appreciates the reputation that U.S. News brings to the effort. Prospective residents and their families, he said, are “casting about for information.”

“Nobody knows where to go,” Cochrane said. “And I think coming out of the gate, this was a source that was seen as thoughtful, credible and bringing some real discipline and structure to helping concerns navigate these choices, which are also often just completely kind of dizzying to them.”

To be included in the U.S. News analysis, a senior living community had to participate in a consumer satisfaction survey of residents and/or their family members or appointed representatives, and they had to meet certain eligibility criteria. The surveys were administered between March 2021 and February 2022. Components evaluated in the more than 200,000 individual responses included community and activity, food and dining, caregiving, and management and staff.

“Through our reporting, we hope to help not only residents or future residents pick where they want to live, and make sure that they’re picking a community that is strong in the areas that are important to them, but also we may provide a window for the operators of these communities to identify improvement areas,” Harder said. Many of the executives who spoke with McKnight’s Senior Living said they plan to do just that.

On a company basis, Brookdale Senior Living had the most locations recognized via the program, 162, and the highest number of total recognitions, 176 (some locations were recognized in more than one category). Brookdale also had the highest number of recognitions in the memory care category, with 79.

Jonathan Ruchman, senior director of customer experience at Brookdale, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company views feedback as “a gift” and that the information from the survey conducted as part of the Best Senior Living process, along with Brookdale’s ongoing resident and family experience feedback channels, “allows us to better understand individual communities’ strengths as we work towards improving opportunity areas.” Also, he said, the feedback from the survey is “an opportunity to recognize and celebrate our community associates for their hard work and their commitment to our residents.”

Other companies with the highest numbers of recognitions in memory care were Sunrise Senior Living (66), The Arbor Company (26), Benchmark Senior Living and Brandywine Senior Living (24 each) and Silverado (22).

“Participating in this effort not only provides valuable, trusted information for families navigating important senior living decisions, but also importantly, helps us gain additional insight into our current success as well as opportunities to evolve,” Sunrise CEO Jack R. Callison Jr. told McKnight’s Senior Living. The company, he added, has a “robust listening strategy” and seeks feedback through multiple programs, including its own customer survey, “so that we can continue to innovate and improve.”

In independent living, Holiday Retirement had the most recognitions, at 49. Other companies with the highest numbers of recognitions in independent living were Leisure Care (24), Five Star Senior Living (19), HumanGood (17) and Discovery (14).

“I view this as one really important consumer tool and one important provider tool to help educate and help inform and thereby improve the experience for everybody,” Cochrane said. “Good providers want to improve the product and experience, and consumers want to know how to make it the right choice for them.”

In assisted living, Enlivant had the highest number of recognitions, at 111. Other companies with the highest numbers of recognitions in assisted living were Brookdale (85), Sunrise (48), Five Star (28) and Benchmark (26).

“The U.S. News designation is particularly meaningful because it is based on the opinions of our residents and families who were surveyed. It provides another tool for us to help ensure the best possible care and experiences for our residents.” Benchmark founder, chairman and CEO Tom Grape told McKnight’s Senior Living. He noted the company’s total of 53 recognitions across all categories.

For CCRCs, also known as life plan communities, HumanGood accounted for three of the seven communities recognized. But CCRCs also were evaluated on their individual levels of care and service, and HumanGood had 17 recognitions in independent living, 15 in assisted living and four in memory care.

Profiles about communities that did not participate in the Best Senior Living program this year will continue to contain information primarily derived from a collaboration with

Next time

Kung advised that those who would like to participate in the Best Senior Living program next time should “sign up fast and lock in your survey dates.”

“Providers who could not survey in time for this first year are already surveying for their data to be included in the next release,” she said. “We are getting many new registrations every week and expect this second year to be much bigger in the number of communities participating.”

Surveys for the second year of the program must be completed by Thanksgiving, she added, but surveying dates are reservable on a first come, first served basis. “In other words, July and October may be all booked up soon, so my advice is to get registered with survey dates confirmed so you can plan your year,” Kung said.

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Industry advocates, community operators and others are invited to a May 25 webinar at which the U.S. News data analytics team will discuss the data and methodology used to create the ratings.

“For those who were not involved this year, I think it’ll be a great opportunity for them to understand the rigor that we’ve brought to this question of which senior living communities are best and what are they strong in and where can they improve,” Harder said. “I’m hopeful that a lot of their questions will be answered there and that the feedback that they can offer us also will help us be even more thoughtful in the coming year.”

A May 26 webinar from Activated Insights also will share with providers reasons to participate in the program.

For additional background information on the program, see this McKnight’s Senior Living article.

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