We asked Masterpiece Living for a partner CCRC implementing successful aging well. Masterpiece Living recommended we talk to Judson Park a Seattle area CCRC. Judson Park residents and staff talked with us about Masterpiece Living. They shared their experience using Masterpiece Living.
Masterpiece Living — Why Should Residents Care?
Masterpiece Living is a system of tested, best-practice tools. The tools benchmark, encourage, and support wellness. We discovered an enthused, engaged community. Judson Park builds wellness into a resident-directed culture, inspired by a social mission. Masterpiece Living’s principles shine through in the day-to-day lives of both Judson Park residents and staff. Notably, responsibility for implementation is everyone’s job. It is a true cultural change and not just a program fad of the moment.
We were particularly interested in the residents’ feedback. It’s easy to understand the benefits to a partner CCRC. Masterpiece Living can extend healthy living and shorten any disability. The Life Plan Community is on the hook for your long-term care. The CCRC benefits when you don’t need long-term care. It’s dollars saved from the community budget. “Live Long, Die Short,” is the company catchphrase and book title by Dr. Roger Landry. (See our book review Live Long). Masterpiece Living sometimes stumbles when explaining why CCRC residents should care. How does the resident benefit if their CCRC offers Masterpiece Living? It’s easy to get bogged down talking about what Masterpiece Living does. Or even worse, how Masterpiece does it. Features include: assessments, data analytics, benchmarking, goal setting. Eyes glazed over yet? We love this stuff, but suspect we’re the exception. Typical consumers just want to hear benefits or results and not the technical details of how.
A pair of active Judson Park residents convinced us that there are benefits for the end consumer.
- Marilyn Smith describes herself as a perennial resident. We love that description. We have a strong preference for perennials over annual flowers. The perennials anchor the garden. They just keep coming back year after year. Marilyn says she’s the beneficiary of the research embodied in Masterpiece Living. She receives the accumulated knowledge in the Masterpiece Living culture.
- Sally Wold emphasized her enthusiasm for community engagement. She has a large family in the area. Yet there’s so much to do and experience through Judson Park. Between the two her schedule is if anything overfull. Sally related turning ninety this year and her choice to celebrate aging. Sally’s joyful demeanor and energy reflect the “Live Long” philosophy behind Masterpiece Living. We liked her emphasis on choosing her attitude towards aging. That choice is a mark of successful aging and happiness.
Judson Park Residents explain the benefits of Masterpiece Living
Spirituality is one of the dimensions of whole-person wellness. It is often reflected in mission or purpose or service. Ken Ray, Judson Park’s fitness director, discussed volunteer service and community engagement. Community service and engagement are successful examples of community wellness. We help ourselves when we help others because life needs purpose beyond our-self. Judson Park serves the larger community both through staff and residents. Ken said Judson Park residents also benefit through that service in improved wellness. We wanted to know if the residents agree.
DAN: Marilyn and Sally, is community engagement in service opportunities an important part of Judson Park? Is that an advantage for you?
SALLY: Absolutely. We’re in this exciting transition of how older adults function in society. That transition is full of potential. I’m realizing that staying in your own home and alone is not the best environment. Even though people treasure it. It’s not good to be alone and have nothing to do all day. I have a number of old neighbors who live in condos now and we still get together for coffee. The city is building affordable housing across the street from my friends’ condos. After the experience of Masterpiece Living at Judson Park, we see that as an opportunity. It’s a chance for service and engagement.
Dan: Those young families can benefit from the wisdom and time volunteered by your friends?
Sally: I think communities are going to play a big role. Older adults can help keep their compatriots busy all day. I think there are great opportunities here in building connections and facilitating valuable activities by older adults.
Masterpiece Living’s successful aging philosophy emphasizes action and not disability. Aging doesn’t have to be passively accepted. We’re not put on the shelf just because we have grey hair. That grey hair is hard won. Better to share some of that wisdom and experience.
The group shared another resident example. They didn’t think Clara would ever go to Jerusalem. Clara had the spiritual goal to do so but mobility was a barrier. Masterpiece Living’s assessment tool motivated her. She mapped out a fitness program to improve her walking endurance. She began walking as part of her daily routine and community life. She walked down the street to the marina every day. Eventually, Clara was able to take the trip to Jerusalem. She also took a writing class to grow her creative spiritual expression. She wrote about her life. She found a romantic relationship in the class. Now she has a significant other in her life. They’re traveling to Switzerland next week and went to Alaska on a bush plane together. It all started with a goal to remove a physical barrier to a spiritual goal.
Masterpiece Living helped Clara ask, “Starting out where I am today, what’s missing and what do I want to do about it? What is the barrier in my way?” That’s the power of what is happening in this community. It is looking at where are you right now and let’s be real about it. Being real about it is hard! You need a community that supports you. It’s okay to accept the reality of where you are. Honest assessment helps you find your path to where you want to be. And you start to see the benefit that it brings in your life. That’s successful aging! Clara never would have walked down to the marina if not for realizing she wanted to go to Jerusalem. Clara started to see the benefit of taking better physical care of herself. It created the means to achieve a goal.
DAN: Clara’s illustration is an example of how an assessment helps the community with better targeting activity. And it also shows how it helps the individual achieve personal goals. Honest assessment matters. You need to have goals and to measure progress towards those goals. It answers the, “What’s it good for?” or “Why does it matter to me?” questions about wellness. The Jerusalem trip is the benefit. Why do I want to be able to walk? Why do I want to have that improved endurance? For next year in Jerusalem. All of us like to have that sense of a personal mission or accomplishment.
Sally shared another example of successful aging in the life of a resident and the resident’s family. Through a LeadingAge panel, Sally met a family with a good cross-generational story.
SALLY: A family member talked about his experience of seeing his folks in a supportive CCRC. He cared for his Mom, who has significant dementia, and his Dad. They, of course, experience the community very differently because of their different needs. But they share the experience of being welcomed as individuals, valued for who they are now.
Nikole Jay, Judson Park’s executive director, filled in some details.
NIKOLE: The father was not the alpha in the family model at all. Socially, he followed behind mom. She was the social instigator, the planner of everything and Dad never really developed those social skills. Skills that are important to start to live in a new community. We got to watch through the eyes of a son, how the culture of the community here at Judson park created opportunities for Dad to learn and feel comfortable. For Dad to start to build new relationships. To start to build an identity for who he is now, and what’s important for him in his life. How our residents helped make those connections. [It’s not just staff.] In a four generational family presentation, the Dad supported by the son told the family story. There were ripple effects in this community. The Dad made so many new friends. The inclusive culture of this community emphasizes the worth and value of everyone. We’re an ageism-free community. It does not matter what mobility device, or what you remember today or forget tomorrow. It is who are you and you are worthy and valued. We want a relationship with you. The son sees the community as a whole embracing his mom even though she may have signs of forgetfulness in conversation. [Memory care] is not segregated into a separate community. It is not a shameful thing. It is something and someone the community supports and loves and values. And that gives her a role in this community. And he has an independent identity and social role.
Dan: We want staff and residents to care for our folks as loved individuals, even when we’re not there. The family benefits are obvious. The adults kids are often instigators of a move. They’re desperately hoping for a happy outcome. New friends go a long ways towards successful aging.
Inclusion and proactive engagement of new residents are key intangibles of successful communities. You can see the architecture. You can interview staff. But it’s difficult to directly measure the culture of the existing residents before move-in. Yet, what we’re really buying is social connection. Why we leave our familiar homes and reject aging-in-place is we don’t want to be isolated and alone. The risk of moving and still being isolated and alone is a real fear. The best CCRCs recognize this and don’t leave social engagement to chance. Judson Park residents confirmed this.
NIKOLE: Marilyn is amazing in that way too. Marilyn met a resident with extreme physical limitations who is a long-term care resident in our village. Marilyn and her husband found this couple together at a dining table in our main Rainer dining room. We don’t say you can’t eat in certain areas based on where you sleep at night or what mobility you might have. Marilyn had a wonderful dinner with Tom and Connie. I’ve heard Marilyn say, “Wow, I didn’t realize how important that moment would be. I was just sitting together for a meal.”
MARILYN: It was a dear moment. We had inadvertently sat with them at dinner at the dining table. Which we had not done before. We didn’t actually know them. But we enjoyed them and there were commonalities. They skied at one time. We skied. We had kids. You know all that kind of stuff. And then dinner was over and we left. The next day when I saw him he said, “You know for a while I felt like I was normal.” That was something that made us very happy and broke our hearts all at the same time. And we have since had them over. We got them into our apartment. I’m not quite really sure how we made it because his wheelchair is massively huge and long. But he came in and we had wine. And we talked and he looked out the window and did all those things you do with friends. Then he said, “you know, my sister is coming to town. Can I bring her over?” I thought, isn’t that nice because now he’s comfortable. It doesn’t matter where he sleeps at night, as Nikole said. It’s friendship no matter what. We love it.
DAN: We just had a really good interview with Cee Cee Hodgson, a national expert on designing for wellness. One of the things she says is that wellness done well is about ability not disability. It is about supporting people’s ability not emphasizing what you can’t do. I think you just gave a good illustration of that.
Conclusion. The Judson Park residents’ illustrations proved the value of the Masterpiece Living system. Some lessons?
- Assessment. Assessment and the subsequent individualized feedback report reveals opportunities for positive change for both the individual and the community.
- Wellness broadly defined. Wellness is more than physical. Social and spiritual connections and intellectual stimulation are essential to happiness and motivation.
- Goals. Goals are essential. There has to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The why is as important as the how.
- Resident-directed. A resident-directed culture is a necessary foundation. With Masterpiece Living the choice of goals and emphasis are the individual’s. Wellness is something you do for yourself, tailored to your own priorities and goals. It’s not something done to you or prescribed for you by rote program.
- Individual value. Valuing residents as individuals is contagious. It infects the lives of residents and their families. We lose friends as we progress through life due to time, distance and age. Doesn’t mean we can’t make new friends and share new experiences. We each want acceptance as an individual. We don’t want to be a faceless abstraction.
(We’re doing a series of short articles on Judson Park. The stories are from a larger group interview. We’ll roll-up the lessons learned into a summary article at the end of the series.)