This is a guest post written by Ann Congleton

This post is an appreciation and extension of George Alexander’s Oct. 8 post “Healthcare wing expansion: the balance between funding and growth” at

George makes a very important contribution by showing that it is possible to endorse the September 28 Health Center proposal without agreeing that the only way to pay for it is to build apartments for new Independent Living (IL) residents in the Center, increasing the total number of residents and passing up uses of that space that would actually strengthen our community.

Reasons why it would be a mistake to increase the number of residents of at Kendal at Longwood – hereafter abbreviated as KAL – have been described by others in addition to George. For example, Harry Hammond in his valuable comment on George’s post points out that having KAL be a face-to-face community was a basic goal of the founders, and that keeping KAL small enough to be a face-to-face community was the reason for creating a second face-to-face community, Crosslands, rather than enlarging KAL. George’s post includes a link to the general literature on community size showing the same need for face-to-face communities to stay small.

If we set aside the ideas of treating the Lower Floor simply as a revenue source and of increasing the number of residents, we can see the Lower Floor as a wonderful opportunity to strengthen what were called our “intangibles” in the 1980s by the Kendal-Crosslands Community Board. That earlier board wrote beautifully about “the intangibles of spirit, enthusiasm and warmth that have characterized our [Kendal at Longwood and Crosslands] communities and that are so easily caught by the visitor.” It went on to say that “we must all continue to nourish these intangibles,” i.e. these crucial aspects of our community that are not easily represented by financial statements or floorplans.

If we ask ourselves what features of KAL lead to these intangibles, we can propose features for the Lower Floor that would further support the “intangibles” that led most of us to choose to join this community. Here, for example, are some of the possibilities for the Lower Floor that have occurred to me:

There could be a resident-operated coffee house with lots of tables from the Shed or other donors, enough tables for people to sit there a long time without worrying that they are leaving no space for others.  There could be tables of various sizes and shapes, some just big enough for a laptop or sketchbook, some square ones good for card games or a jigsaw puzzle, and so on. Our woodshop wizards could make a counter, and it seems sure that we have residents who have or could develop barista talents if some donor gave a real coffee machine. There could be reading chairs and a rack of donated magazines. It could have a platform at one end for music, talks, mini-plays, etc. by residents or visitors, and of course it could all be decorated by KAL’s own artists, one of its “intangible” treasures from the beginning.

In addition, there could be space for the very successful resident-staff hydroponics project to expand enough to supply all the fresh greens for our dining room.  That would save the cost of environmentally damaging and expensive imports, which are also less nourishing. Because it uses its own lights, the hydroponics project could make excellent use of an area without natural lighting, such as the large, windowless, and now empty storage room which has been opened up near the crafts studios.

The Lower Floor could also include a comfortable and well-equipped screening room and soundproof rooms for music practice (and for storage of things such as the handbells of our bell ringers). There could be more adequate space for the activities and library of our valuable Social Services office and Spiritual Life Committee, such as moving the Quiet Room to a space that has natural light and enough room for small groups as well as individuals. 

Spaces of these sorts are likely to be less expensive than the additional apartments currently proposed for the Lower Floor and also less expensive to maintain.  And all of these spaces, by being in the Center itself, would be accessible to residents of the Health Center as well as to cottage dwellers and staff members.

And, in contrast to increasing the number of residents and moving them directly into the Center, the Lower Floor could have some residences for single people who are already members of the community living in its cottages and who do not need the special services provided by Cumberland and Westmoreland but who have developed mobility issues that make it no longer manageable to walk or scooter from their cottages to the Center and are not living with someone who can assist them. The Lower Floor could also have a short-term residential suite that would allow partners or families to stay near loved ones who are dying. Adding residences in the Center for reasons of decreased mobility and hospice would enhance the Center’s functioning for the community rather than undermining it as would the addition of apartments for new IL residents.

What is needed right away is a counterpart to the committee that produced the promising design for the Health Center floor so well presented by Sarah Matas and others on Sept. 28. A KAL resident-staff collaborative committee for the Lower Floor needs to be activated before any further decisions are made in order to assure that KAL’s “intangibles” are guiding the planning.

The committee could also be asked to include planning for the Barn, since these two major opportunities to enhance KAL’s community life need to be considered together, even if actual work on the Barn is postponed. Discussing the Barn separately risks having those discussions distract the community from the more urgent consideration of the Lower Floor. Also the Barn does not have potential for the enhancements of KAL mentioned above, but its single, fine and special large space could complement the Lower Floor. It could become a splendid “All Purpose Room” capable of giving KAL an acoustically worthy performance space that could be easily convertible for Pickle Ball or Basketball or receptions or fairs or other events. Having the Barn and Lower Floor considered by the same committee seems the best way to be sure they are used in complementary ways and that discussion of the Barn does not distract the community from consideration of the Lower Floor.

A Collaborative Committee for the Lower Floor and Barn could coordinate with the existing Health Center Collaborative Committee and could lead community reflection on how best to realize the great potentials of the Lower Floor and Barn.

This blog offers a good space to discuss this sort of planning. George encourages such use in the “About” section of its Home Page, where he writes that

“This blog is an experiment in communication…. To other residents, I say: please submit posts from your perspective too. This blog is meant to be a community tool.”