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Online Senior Placement Services: How They Work

| By Robert Grammatica

When researching senior living options online, seniors and families will eventually come across one of the many senior placement services online. Understand how they work and their limitations.


Online Senior Placement Services

Those searching for senior living options online often struggle to educate themselves when making an informed decision about care or community living options – especially for an aging loved one. With many seniors averse to moving out of their house, even when it is no longer safe, it’s a decision fraught with stress and conflicting emotions.

Many don’t know how to get started, where to turn, which communities or senior care placement agencies to contact, or whom to trust. Given the stakes, there is no choice but to become an educated, savvy online consumer.

Families often start with online educational research, visiting a wide variety of non-profit and for-profit websites. They will inevitably come across one of the many senior placement services online.  

Senior Placement Services: How Do They Work?

Referral services are intermediaries like online travel or real estate sites such as,,, or  For consumers who are unable to search on their own or choose to have a third-party help with research, contract placement services can be a helpful resource. Regardless, it is still important for consumers to be educated about the services and organizations they rely on for advice.

Senior living placement services establish contractual relationships with certain senior living providers. Some represent hundreds or even thousands, but none offer every option. Even the largest online placement service only has relationships with less than one-half of all senior living communities in the U.S. 

Referral services make money by acquiring consumer contact information, establishing a relationship with them, and, ultimately,  referring consumers to a contracted provider. They typically receive compensation equivalent to one month’s rent after a client they referred successfully moves into a contracted community.   While many community operators participate with online placement services because they don’t have the online marketing experience or financial resources to compete in a crowded online consumer marketplace, many are unable to afford the commissions or increasingly choose not to participate in favor of direct consumer relationships.

So, to ensure you are researching all potential options, it’s wise to research quality, highly-rated communities in the local area you’re targeting. Google and Bing reviews, which represent real consumers and residents, are a great place to start. Ultimately, you will need to work with the community directly. Even if you work with a referral service, you will need to visit the short list of local communities to be sure it’s a good fit for you or your loved one.

What You Need To Know

In theory, online referral or senior placement services save consumers’ time and effort by compiling senior living community information, amenities, pricing, and “advisory services” all in one place.  Qualified third-party referral agencies can be helpful, especially when there’s an urgent need, but it’s important to know what you’re getting – and what you’re not.  More importantly, it’s better to do as much of your own “do-it-yourself” research directly with communities as early as possible.  Ultimately, most families and residents choose a community in a local geographic area close to home or family members. You can also explore local placement services with people who have personal relationships with communities and know the local area. However, like online counterparts paid by providers, not every local agent contracts with every provider in their area. 

Quality of an online advisor – Know who you are communicating with. Are the “advisors” dedicated senior care professionals with experience and knowledge of local providers and communities, or are they inside sales reps or call center staff focused on hitting sales quotas? It may be surprising to learn that many advisory services claiming to be “experts” only offer the latter. While there are many dedicated, knowledgeable advisors who enter senior living to help seniors, many call center staff have never visited the senior living communities they’re recommending. So, be sure to ask questions about their level of experience, credentials, and first-hand knowledge of the providers they refer you to. 

Profit Motive – Many consumers incorrectly assume that online referral services refer communities based on family needs or the best fit. Many advisors online and in your local community are very knowledgeable about provider options—but only those they contract with. As a business, they naturally only present or recommend senior living communities that agree to pay them a commission. Some will even direct you to those offering the greatest financial return or helping residents move in faster than others.

Many senior referral agencies are well-funded, privately held organizations. As these for-profit services gain greater market share and pricing power – often through aggressive online marketing practices – they raise commission costs. Those higher costs are ultimately passed on to consumers down the line as costs continually increase.

Price Comparisons – Referral services often say they offer price shopping comparisons – but they don’t really because none of the current services represent all or even most of the communities in many areas. Senior care costs are highly customized and dependent on location, apartment size, amenities, care needs, and a variety of other variables. Operators may offer different move-in incentives based on the inventory available. The only way to get a true price comparison is to directly reach out to a short list of communities in your preferred locations. 

Ratings & Consumer Reviews – Several online referral services offer “best of” ratings and reviews, but there are no clear standards or performance criteria. Criteria are often based on reviews on their own websites, averaging a rating of 4.5 stars.

Well-known consumer surveys, such as J.D. Power and U.S. News and World Report, offer valuable insights into senior living communities, but they have some limitations. Rankings may not always reflect the most current information due to the time it takes to collect and analyze information. Many communities opt out of surveys due to the cost of participation—again, limiting your choices. In some cases, accessing detailed reports and rankings may require a subscription or payment, which could be a drawback for some users. 

While some rankings are based on a wide variety of helpful metrics, they may not fully capture the more subjective aspects of senior living, such as atmosphere and community culture. Some rankings are based on customer feedback, which can give you a good insight into the quality of the community but may not always align with your personal preferences or priorities.

Consumer ratings and review services can be very helpful, but Google reviews are a more reliable source because they display both positive and negative reviews. The bottom line: Consider multiple sources and gather additional information, such as personal visits and reviews from residents and families, before deciding.

Marketing Practices – Always check that the owner of the website you are calling is the organization you are trying to contact. Some senior referral agencies own or are affiliated with multiple websites, and most do not disclose that the same owner operates different brand domains. Some even buy search keywords with the names of senior living communities to intercept traffic meant for a selected community. So always confirm the party you are talking with is the one you intend to contact.

Personal Information For Sale

Beware of websites that offer pricing comparisons and other special downloads – Chance are, they won’t show up until you call or fill out a personal contact form or talk with an “advisor.” It’s not uncommon to be contacted immediately upon completing the form. Some senior placement services start calling within seconds, then repeatedly call until they speak to you. Then, they share your contact information with multiple local communities, who, in turn, all follow up as a potential fit for the consumers’ needs. Many are unaware that the referral agency shares the prospective resident’s contact with many providers.

Referral sites are also motivated to capture personal information because they make money by passing it along to other placement services or contracted communities. There are dozens of for-profit online senior care referral sources that sell your “lead” or share your contact information in the hopes of a move-in.

Questions to Ask

When working with an online senior placement service, be sure to ask the right questions:

  • What qualifications do you/your staff members have in senior care and senior living options?
  •  How do you make money?
  • How do you select the facilities you recommend, and what is your relationship with them?
  • Have you visited the communities that you would recommend?
  • Do you contract with all of the communities in my area?
  • How do you handle and share personal information?
  • How many communities do you send my contact information to?
  • Can you provide testimonials or reviews from families who have used your services?

Typically, local in-person referral services are more knowledgeable about each community option.  However, always ask how they get compensated and the above questions so you understand how recommendations are made.  Some local placement services are paid for by the consumer instead of the provider and are often the best option for families as they are incentivized to find the right fit.

Know Who Owns the Website You’re Visiting

In your research, you will come across dozens of seemingly different third-party senior care placement agencies—each one offering access to information in exchange for personal contact information.

Consumers don’t know that many of the most highly visited sites are owned by just a handful of for-profit online placement services. The practice of a single company using multiple domains in the same consumer category is commonly referred to as “SERP Domination.” The goal is to increase visibility and share of clicks while crowding out the competition on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).  The practice involves buying or building many different website domains to blanket as many different customer preferences and search queries as possible.

The Big Players

The online lead referral business in senior living is big business. The top three largest players own or are affiliated with 34% of the top 50 websites in the market.

A Place For Mom

A Place for Mom is, by far, the largest, privately held online marketing enterprise in senior care placement in the US and Canada. It has built, acquired, or is affiliated with at least seven different consumer websites, making it the most dominant presence in Google search. Some of its largest websites include:

  • was purchased in 2018 by a group of investors forming part of a newly established entity specifically created for this acquisition. This move was aimed at leveraging’s market presence in the senior care industry to expand into new areas. has since acquired several notable websites, including:



Formed in 2022, SilverAssist is a newcomer who owns and operates a suite of services and websites designed to provide support and resources to seniors and their families. Its portfolio includes:


What Senior Living Providers Say About Referral Services:

While some providers value referral services for their role in providing online marketing to reach consumers, filling vacancies, and expanding reach, concerns about the cost of commissions, a negative customer experience, aggressive marketing practices, and the quality of family contacts persist. Most operators prefer direct interactions with families to ensure a better fit with resident needs, a smoother, more personalized customer experience, and, ultimately, greater resident satisfaction.

Better Options: Go Directly to the Source – The Communities

Search using Google, Bing, or your preferred search engine in the specific geographic area you are looking for.  Then, create a short list of four to five communities with strong Google reviews. Visit the website, speak with staff, contact them directly for price, and, when ready, visit to get a personal view of the community.

There are also several federal and local government resources and non-profit entities, including:

  •  –  An educational site and care-locating service provided by the U.S. government in association with local care services.
  • – The National Council on Aging is a non-profit organization that has been advocating for seniors and families for over 70 years.
  • – LeadingAge is a trusted voice for aging. We are a community of over 5,400 non-profit aging services providers and other mission-driven organizations serving older adults nationwide.
  •  – Provides eldercare services resources as part of
  • – Provides assisted living cost data in all 50 states and many major cities.
  • – Where You Live Matters is the official consumer website of the American Seniors Housing Association. It provides expert educational information and offers a community locator across the U.S.

Where You Live Matters

Where You Live Matters was created in 2016  by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a non-profit membership organization and a respected voice in the senior housing industry. is a free service to consumers and owner-operators regardless of their affiliation or membership in ASHA.

About the American Seniors Housing Association

ASHA’s membership is made up of investors, owner-operators, and various parties interested in advancing senior living options for our aging population. ASHA believes community and congregate living is a critically important option for families and residents, especially those alone and isolated at home. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for paid member senior living executives so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country and promote senior living.

By Robert Grammatica

Longevity Point Advisors, LLC

Robert Grammatica is the Founder of Longevity Point Advisors, LLC, a marketing consultancy. He is an expert in senior living sales and marketing and is directly supporting ASHA’s efforts to promote as an independent, non-profit resource for seniors and families.

Learn more about Robert Grammatica