Soon after we moved into Kendal, I was told this story. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but it is a good example of a very real phenomenon here.

In the lower level of our Center, there is a room with a copier that residents can use for a small fee. Nearby there is a stapler. One day, a note appeared next to the stapler: “Out of staples”. The next day, someone had put a second note next to the first: “To see a problem is to take responsibility for fixing it.”

The message: at Kendal, residents are expected to take responsibility for whatever they can. And that is exactly what happens. Apart from food, building maintenance, and groundskeeping, residents do pretty much everything, on a volunteer basis. They run the library. They handle the A/V and lighting systems in the auditorium. They maintain the trails in the woods. They arrange for films, speakers, and music performances. They run the gift shop. And so on. All of this is handled via a system of more than 100 resident committees.

This is a fundamental difference between Kendal and a lot of other retirement communities, and there seems to be a historical reason for it. Kendal was started by a group of people who became the initial residents, and they did everything themselves. As they saw a need for staff (an administrator, a nurse), they hired just enough people to handle what they couldn’t do on their own. But when they saw something that needed doing, or something they wanted to happen, and it was something that they could do themselves, they just did it. That attitude persists to this day.

Sometimes people visit Kendal thinking that they will find an environment comparable to a cruise or a country club: everything is taken care of, and your activities and entertainment are planned for you. If that is what you are looking for, Kendal is not the place for you. Here, as long as you are able-bodied, retirement is not the end of responsibility.

Now, with Covid-19 limiting our ability to interact, how will this aspect of Kendal’s character survive? Will it manifest itself in new ways?