Can Online Reviews Help Your Senior Living Search?

In the digital age, more and more of us read reviews before we make any kind of purchase. We find out what critics say about a movie before we buy a $15 ticket to the theater. We head to Yelp before we make dinner reservations. We scroll through Amazon to find the most highly rated coffeemaker. We check out Consumer Reports before we buy a new car. Why should our senior living search be any different?

“Ratings and reviews are becoming the word-of-mouth advice that people value, and the senior living space is no exception,” confirms Jason Appelbaum, marketing director at SeniorAdvisor.com, one of the nation’s largest senior living review sites.

Still not sold? Let’s compare user reviews with other resources available in the senior living search.

Promotional Materials vs. User Reviews

Community brochures present beautiful pictures of perfectly manicured lawns and smiling seniors on every page. But even the best senior community can’t live up to the glossy pages of a well-edited promotional piece. And that’s exactly what you need to keep in mind—brochures, websites, and other materials produced by the community itself are promotional in nature. They’re designed to give you highlights, such as lists of the activities and amenities available, and photos of the community on a sunny day.

All of this is useful information as you begin your senior living search, but user reviews tell you things you can’t learn from a promotional piece. Reviews provide a behind-the-scenes look at a family’s personal experience with a particular community. Though their experience may not be the same as yours, it can certainly raise red flags or provide important questions to ask when you tour the community yourself.

Community Tours vs. User Reviews

Touring senior communities is an essential step in your senior living search. On a tour, you can see the facility firsthand and ask every question that comes to mind. It’s also a good idea to go off the beaten path of a guided tour and talk to floor nurses and residents themselves to gauge their satisfaction with the community.

But as helpful as a tour can be, it doesn’t tell the whole story because you can’t possibly talk to every person there. So if you encounter a few happy (or unhappy) residents, that can shape your opinion of the entire community. User reviews supplement this experience, allowing you to hear the thoughts and opinions of many different people who have passed through the doors of the community. And a senior living community’s overall rating can help you determine whether to keep the facility on your list or keep looking.

User Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

Of course, we’ve all heard of fake reviews—you know, the ones written by the very people selling the product or service. If you’re going to take the time to read an online review, you want to be able to trust that it’s coming from a real person, not someone employed by the senior community itself. That’s part of the mission of SeniorAdvisor.com, where nearly 100 percent of the reviews have been verified as the firsthand experiences of real customers or visitors.

The goal? To provide unbiased, unfiltered ratings and reviews of senior communities as a free service to families. “Unbiased” means the reviews come from real people, and “unfiltered” means the staff doesn’t cherry-pick the good reviews and delete the bad ones—they post them all. This commitment to total transparency means you can clearly see which communities are doing a good job and which ones aren’t, and therefore make an informed decision about the best care for your senior loved one.

“Finding the best senior living option can be stressful,” acknowledges Appelbaum. “What better way to get help than to read what real families and residents have to say about the communities?”

CHIME IN: How have online reviews helped your family’s senior living search?

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