In a previous blog post, I published a document by Kendal’s CEO, Sean Kelly, in which he outlined the way the Kendal system operates and the relationship among Kendal affiliates. A central feature is the booklet entitled Values and Practices, which lists the principles by which Kendal affiliates can judge their success. The content of Values and Practices is periodically reviewed, revised, and approved by the “leadership council”, which consists of the CEOs/EDs and the Board Chairs of each affiliate community.

You can read the current Values and Practices on the Kendal Corporation website here:

It is important to emphasize that this is a corporate document, providing guidance to the entire Kendal system. Our local Kendal affiliate, Kendal-Crosslands Communities, is just one voice among the many that determine what goes into it. There are 13 affiliates in the Kendal system, and this is a document shared by all of them. The current version carries a 2012 copyright, and is an update of a major 2009 revision.

In what follows, the quotations in bold are taken from the 1987 and 2012 documents. I have done this to help readers distinguish between my commentary and the documents as published.

The 1987 context of “Values and Standards”. The original version (called Values and Standards) was published in 1987, 25 years before the current one. Back then, the distinction between “corporate” and “local” did not exist. There were only three campuses then (Kendal, Crosslands, and Conniston) and they shared a common management (as they do today).

In 1987 (as Harry Hammond pointed out to me), Kendal was getting national attention for its remarkable “Untie the Elderly” initiative, which had only been officially launched the year before (although it was based on practices Kendal had adopted from the start). It was a heady time for Kendal.

Through a series of reorganizations, Kendal evolved from three neighboring campuses under a single management into the current “Kendal system” with its “federal” system of semi-independent affiliates. Of necessity, the 1987 document went through various adaptations to reflect the changing organization.

What changed in 25 years? I thought it would be interesting to see how Kendal’s key guiding document changed over those 25 years. I am grateful to Eliza Lewis for lending me a copy of the 1987 Values and Standards. Eliza’s husband, Lloyd Lewis, was Kendal’s CEO at the time.

What I have found is that the 1987 version is somewhat more ambitious and more strongly worded than the current one. That reflects the trailblazing spirit that characterized the early days of Kendal. The current one reads a bit more like the work of a committee (which it essentially is). There have also been shifts of emphasis as circumstances have changed, both within Kendal and in the broader world. What follows is a comparison of some of the major themes in the two documents.

Kendal’s mission. In 1987, Kendal saw its mission as:

“It is the purpose of Kendal-Crosslands, a not-for-profit charitable corporation, to establish and operate communities for older people in accordance with the principles of the Religious Society of Friends and with the values and standards developed at Kendal at Longwood and Crosslands. These principles, values and standards require that our communities provide, at reasonable cost, those conditions fostering independence, health and security under which residents may realize their fullest potential. In furtherance of its purpose, Kendal-Crosslands furnishes consulting and management services to other not-for-profit organizations which operate, or seek to establish, similar communities.”

Apart from the final sentence, this is probably not too far from the way many people would formulate Kendal’s mission today. Perhaps “to foster a sense of community” might be added somewhere—to me, this seems sufficiently important to mention in a mission statement.

The final sentence, about offering “consulting and management services” no longer applies. Instead, the 2012 document reflects the fact that Kendal has gradually morphed into a “federal” model, with over a dozen semi-independent affiliates.

There is no mission statement in the current Values and Practices, and none on the corporate website. Should Kendal have a mission statement now? Does the lack of a mission statement reflect a lack of unanimity about Kendal’s mission? Mission statements can be of limited use in practice, but creating one can be a way of confirming that everyone involved has the same objectives in mind. I think creating a new one would be a useful exercise.

Curiously, Kendal-Crosslands, our local organization, has a “mission” page on its website (, but there is no mission statement on it. Instead, there is descriptive information and a pared-down list of “Values and Practices”, loosely derived from the Values and Practices document.

The 1987 “obligations”. The 1987 document contains a section immediately following the mission statement that lists three “obligations” that, it says, are “essential to the achievement of our purpose.” There is no corresponding list of obligations in the current version. The obligations listed in 1987 are:

  • “To be a leader in continuing care in the United States, not only by keeping our own communities at the highest level of excellence, but also by taking an active role in the shaping of public policies which affect our communities, and in all of the appropriate professional associations, and by working with others to fill important needs of the aging;
  • To admit and maintain in our communities, as our resources permit, people who are unable to pay the full entry or monthly fees;
  • To put before our staff continuing opportunities for their professional and personal development, to the end that our communities will always encourage the growth of those who work as well as those who live there.”

The third of these “obligations”, opportunities for staff development, continues to be an important part of the 2012 Values and Practices. The other two, however, have been significantly weakened in the 2012 document.

The first obligation, “to be a leader in continuing care”, is mentioned in the 2012 document, but its role has been de-emphasized. According to the 2012 document: “We help shape public policies affecting older adults, and we support legislation and regulation for consumer protection in this field.” (p. 19); “giving leadership to the development of model statutes, regulations, and an accreditation system and standards for continuing care retirement communities” (p. 20); and “Many Kendal staff take leadership roles with professional organizations and make significant contributions nationally to our field.” (p. 20). I’ll return to the leadership question in the context of the “values” statements, below.

The second obligation, admitting people who are unable to afford the full fees, was changed to a statement encouraging affordability. There is now a “value” statement that Kendal will “make our services and communities affordable, to the extent possible, to a range of economic capabilities.” (p. 3) There is also a statement that “some Kendal communities also offer entry fee assistance on a limited basis…. Fee structures often incorporate modest premiums for larger units that enable modest discounts for the smaller units most often chosen by those with more limited resources.” (p. 12) It would be interesting to know how seriously the various affiliates take this concept, which was considered quite important in Kendal’s early days.

Kendal’s values. As the name Values and Standards implies, the 1987 document contains a list of “Our Values and Goals” near the beginning, devoting the balance of the booklet to a more detailed description of the effects of those values in practice. That general structure is retained in the 2012 Values and Practices, where the corresponding list near the beginning is simply called “Our Values.”

The 1987 document lists nine values. All of them are carried over (often with modifications) to the 2012 version, and the 2012 document adds six more.

The six new values. It is interesting to look at the six value statements that have been added and consider what might have motivated their inclusion. Here are the six:

  • “To encourage and welcome all people without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by law, to live in our communities and to serve on our staffs and boards.” This was mentioned in the 1987 document, but not as a “value”. Today, it is a matter of law.
  • “To engage in practices that sustain and improve our environments and our planet.” Sustainability has become a major concern in recent years. In 1987, it was not listed as a “value” but was touched on in describing the physical design of Kendal, which took into account “responsible use of energy and water, appropriate waste disposal, and preservation of natural areas.”
  • “To value participation, transparency, and consensus building by nurturing careful listening and effective decision making.” Quakers have always embraced these ideas, and perhaps they were considered a given in 1987. In the broader world, organizations have generally been moving away from overly hierarchical structures in recent decades, so perhaps that was also a reason for adding this “value”.
  • “To continue to grow by engaging in ongoing evaluation and staff development, and by seeking and responding to new opportunities to further our mission.” I find this “value” confusing. The latter part, I believe is meant to endorse the possibility of adding new affiliates and new services. But combining this with “evaluation” and “staff development” muddles the meaning for me. 
  • “To foster a culture of generosity, encouraging and developing full use of our time, talent, and resources.” This one confuses me, too. Who is being generous to whom, and what is the connection between generosity and “full use of time, talent, and resources”?
  • “To maintain integrity and high ethical standards in everything that we say and do.” This value is very basic to Quakerism and probably did not seem to need to be stated in 1987. But the Kendal system is no longer predominantly Quaker. I don’t know of any Quakers in the administration here at Kendal-Crosslands, and that the situation is probably similar at other affiliates, so it makes sense to make this value explicit in the Values & Practices document.

The values that have been kept. Nine of the “values” listed in 1987 have been preserved in the 2012 Values and Practices. Four of the value statements have had only minor changes over the years. Here is the wording of those four in the current version:

  • “To enhance the quality of life and vitality of those we serve and to foster a sense of community, treating each person as a valued individual and in an atmosphere of mutual respect and caring.”
  • “To provide high quality wellness programs and health care services, treating each person with dignity.”
  • “To foster a high-quality work experience for staff, recognizing that Kendal must be a good place to work if we are to offer good places to live and to provide high quality services.”
  • “To take responsibility in the larger community, maintaining extensive and mutually supportive relationships and sharing our resources and experience.”

To my mind, these are four of the foundational ideas of Kendal, and I am glad that they have survived intact.

The other five original values have gotten modified over the years. Some have been improved, in my opinion, and some have been weakened. Here they are, as currently worded:

  • “To provide physical settings that are sensitive to the aging process and that enhance quality of life, security, and wellness.” This statement has changed considerably. In the 1987 version, it used to start: “To create a home-like physical environment which is as non-institutional as possible….” I like that the concept of “as non-institutional as possible” (and I believe it is still an objective, at least here at Kendal-Crosslands). I’m not sure why it was dropped.
  • “To employ financial designs that contribute to security and serve our social objectives to make our services and communities affordable, to the extent possible, to a range of economic capabilities.” The previous wording of this statement supported making “our communities affordable to the largest possible number of people.” The current one is less ambitious.
  • “To strive for excellence in management and governance, seeking and developing board and staff dedicated to our mission and values, and building partnerships with those we serve.” In the 1987 version, “building partnerships with those we serve” was not part of this value. I like the new version.
  • “To promote an environment of continuing learning, encouraging lifelong growth for staff, community members, boards, and volunteers.” The focus of this value statement has shifted since 1987. It used to read: “To engage in continuing education and evaluation aimed at developing our staff, improving our services, and living up to our mission.” The ideas of “evaluation” and “improvement” have been removed in the 2012 version, which I think is a loss.
  • “To take an active role in aging issues through professional dialogue, research, public policy, and other means, thereby contributing to improved services for all older people.” In the 1987 version, this value statement began with “To provide leadership in the field of care for the aging….” Shouldn’t we still strive for leadership?

The “leadership” issue. It’s tricky to define what “leadership in the field” should mean. It is true that Kendal affiliates set a good example with their involvement in the communities surrounding them, and Kendal Corporation supports worthy causes with grants, funded by donations. There are numerous other examples of things Kendal does well.

What I would love to see, however, is something more ambitious. The Kendal system has not done anything as high-profile as the “Untie the Elderly” initiative in recent decades, and perhaps industry leadership at that level is too much to expect. But couldn’t we be looking for opportunities to do something like that?

I have no doubt that opportunities will arise. At the moment, for example, there is an upsurge of support for a stronger policy on sustainability among residents at the Kendal affiliates. Last spring, residents at Kendal at Hanover launched the “All-Kendal Residents’ Climate Initiative”, and it has active participation on nine of the campuses. In searching the web, I can’t find any other retirement organization that has moved aggressively on cutting its carbon footprint. The Kendal system could be the first, and could establish leadership in that area.

As a starting point, we could at least reinstate “provide leadership in the field of care for the aging” as one of our values, and then aspire to live up to it.

Yes, Kendal has changed. In summary, the changes between the 1987 Values and Standards and the 2012 Values and Practices reflect the difference between a small pioneering Quaker organization with a clear focus on where it was headed on the one hand, and an affiliation of more than a dozen retirement communities, largely non-Quaker, trying to define a common direction on the other.

I doubt that the Kendal system will be able to recreate the kind of clear, shared vision the Kendal organization had in 1987. But perhaps we can continue to remind ourselves of the best ideas from our past and try to see how they can be used to guide us, now and in the future.