What’s in a Word?

At SeniorAdvisor.com, we see hundreds of senior living reviews per week. We gathered the text of those reviews and analyzed them to see which words come up most often. We removed common words like “the,” “a,” “it,” etc., as well as words that were common among all reviews (“residents,” “staff,” “mom,” “dad,” etc). What we found may surprise you…

Besides the obvious (satisfaction vs. dissatisfaction), have you ever wondered what else might distinguish a 5-star review from a 1-star? We used Wordle to create two word clouds – one for positive 5-star reviews and one for negative 1-star reviews. Can you guess which is which?

A word cloud showing the most common words in positive 5-star reviews.

A word cloud showing the most common words in a negative 1-star review.

(Answer: The first, colorful one is the 5-star review word cloud. The second, grayer one is the 1-star review word cloud.)

Here are some things we noticed…

Words do not exist in a vacuum

You might wonder why some words show up in both clouds (“recommend,” “good,” “loved”). This is likely because the words appear as part of a phrase with a qualifying word that makes sense given the context of the review: for instance, “would definitely recommend” in a 5-star review vs. “DO NOT recommend” in a 1-star review.

Changes in tone reflect the reviewer’s attitude

In the 5-star reviews, positive adjectives such as “beautiful,” “wonderful” and “happy” are more prevalent. Conversely, negative words like “depressing” and “horrible” are more common in 1-star reviews.

Inclusive vs. Exclusive

More inclusive words like “every” and “always” are much more prominent in positive reviews, whereas words like “never” tend to show up more in negative reviews.

Food is a hot topic

Food, meals and dining experiences contribute significantly to a person’s overall impression of a community.

Miscommunication can lead to a negative review

Words related to communication (“told,” “called,” “supposed”) recur in negative reviews, suggesting that bad communication, or unfulfilled promises, are a common negative experience for reviewers.

In negative reviews, stereotypes rear their ugly head

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that utilitarian words common to the negative stereotypes surrounding the senior living industry appear more in negative reviews – words like “medication,” “nursing,” “hospital” and “patients.” These gloomy words are missing from positive reviews, even though medication is still being dispensed, nursing care is still available, and patients are still primary residents. This indicates the power of having a positive experience at a community. When a reviewer has a good feeling about a community, they are more likely to see “residents” instead of “patients” who are living in a senior community, not a hospital ward.

What else do you see?


Based in Austin, TX, Amelia is the former Content Marketing Manager for SeniorAdvisor.com. When she’s not writing about online reputation management, online reviews, and social media in the senior living space, she enjoys yoga and running with her dog Rockefeller. She graduated from Wellesley College cum laude with a dual degree in English and Medieval/Renaissance Studies.


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