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The Making of a Great Community

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I am probably not supposed to say this, but in truth, there are some really great senior living communities, many many very average or ordinary senior living communities, and a few that range from not great to pretty terrible.

This range of quality plays out in full view at the website (Caring is a Senior Housing Forum Partner). It is a place where residents, family members . . . really anyone can offer their likes and dislikes about specific senior living communities. Today you can find more than 70,000 senior living consumer reviews.

Best of The Best

Each year reviews all of their lists and ratings to identify the best of the best. They have recently announced the 2015 list caring stars. In order to be a caring star, a community needs to have at least the following:

  • three new reviews in 2014
  • one of which is a 5-star rating
  • an overall star rating of 4 or greater
  • consistently high reviews

This year there were 805 Caring Stars announced, which more than doubled the number from the year before. That 805 includes 33 communities that have been a Caring Star community at least 3 times before, and there were 3 communities that have been on the list each year since its inception in 2012.

Up Close and Personal

Each year the leadership team picks one Caring Star community in the Bay Area to make a personal presentation of their award certificate. I was invited to attend the celebration that took place this past Friday at Emeritus at Fremont, a Brookdale Community. This community has more than 150 independent living and assisted living apartments. They are at 97% occupancy, which is probably the best single indicator of a quality senior living community.

 Caring Stars Brookdale Fremont

Caring Stars Brookdale Fremont Leadership

One Story

After the presentation of the award, by Andy Cohen, the CEO of, and a tour of the community, I sat down with Dimple Kamdar, the executive director, to talk about what makes her community special and successful. She started reeling off a list all these things that residents do, not just for entertainment, but activities that give back to other residents and the broader marketplace community. 

They do shoeboxes full of supplies for the needy; they have a group that has knitted more than six hundred caps for babies, a group curiously enough that was started by a male resident in the community who was also a knitter.

The story that really intrigued me though was that last year’s resident council president noticed that after shopping, a number of residents would come through the door and really struggle to get their things to their apartment. He also knew there were plenty of able body residents who could and would help if asked.

He created a little program where, if a resident needs help, they call one of more of a couple dozen volunteers to provide that needed extra helping hand.

Trivial or Not

It might seem first to be a trivial program, a trivial idea, a trivial number of people involved. But it’s not! Think about what too often happens in senior living. We tell residents, “Come move into our community, where we will do everything for you. You will never have to . . . " fill in the blanks.

Short term, such as a vacation, that may be ok but for the rest of your life . . . for the rest of their lives, no thanks! It causes depression, shortens lengths of stay and unnecessarily adds to staff responsibilities.

These kinds of life enrichment programs should be the most important element of every life enrichment program.

Steve Moran


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