On January 14, Harry Hammond presented a talk on “The Founders’ Vision”,  a fitting way to kick off Kendal’s 50th anniversary year. Harry is the right person to address this topic, since he has spent more time than anyone else going through Kendal’s archives.

In this blog post, I will touch on some of the key aspects of Harry’s talk. But if this topic interests you, you will want to watch the video of Harry’s talk, or read his prepared text. Harry’s slides, many of which use original documents to illustrate his points, are here. In this blog post, I can only scratch the surface of the material he covered.

Let me emphasize: Harry’s presentation was not simply of historical relevance. Harry laid out the values on which Kendal was founded and how they were implemented in the early years. Implicitly, he asked us to reflect on what we’ve lost, why that matters, and what might be done if we wanted to restore the best aspects of Kendal’s early days.

Harry began by quoting the three Kendal mission statements he was able to track down. The first was the “Statement of Purpose” submitted to the IRS in 1972 in support of Kendal’s application for tax-exempt status. The next statement he found was from ten years later.

Harry reported: “… the KRA archives includes a long 1982 statement that uses these phrases:

  • self-supporting lifecare… (refers to the insurance aspect of Kendal’s business model)
  • guided by Friends principles
  • managed by an independent Quaker board
  • offering independence, security, and a continuum of health care
    • at reasonable cost
    • which fosters the growth of residents and staff toward their full potentials

Thirty-five years later, after two corporate re-organizations, KCC published a more compact ‘Purpose and Mission’ statement: ‘It is the purpose of Kendal-Crosslands Communities, a not-for profit charitable organization, to provide services and communities for older people in accordance with the principles of the Religious Society of Friends.’” 

Vision, not mission. Harry then shifted gears, to talk about Kendal’s “vision” rather than its “mission”. As he explained, “In corporate-speak, VISION is the answer to the question, ‘What does it look like when the organization is pursuing its mission?’ Typically, mission and vision help a board and the board’s executive leader identify shorter term goals and how to achieve them.  When looking in the other direction, from the present into the past, ‘vision’ (or a failure to be led by one) comes into focus by studying the organization’s policies, stated intentions, board agendas, actions, budgets, CEO evaluations, outcomes, and so on.”

The person most responsible for Kendal’s founding vision, and the figure at the center of Harry’s talk, was Lloyd Lewis, Kendal’s first Executive Director (the position we now call CEO). Lewis died in 2000, but his wife, Eliza, is an active Kendal resident to this day. A central part of Lewis’ approach at Kendal was “the interdependence of all”, by which he meant that residents, staff, and administrators would all depend on each other.

In 1988, on the occasion of Kendal’s 15th anniversary, Lewis wrote: “The development of Kendal at Longwood is a story of community-building, accentuating the interdependence of all participants.  If we can keep this same dynamic alive…, Kendal will remain one of the foremost continuing care communities in the United States.” 

Harry commented: “Note that Lewis used the phrase ‘INTERDEPENDENCE of all,’ rather than ‘interaction of all.’  The choice of words seems important.  Also note his use of the conditional, ‘IF.’”

Harry continued: “My guess is Lewis realized that the ‘interdependence of all’ that had developed at Kendal at Longwood during the seventies had become less robust.  KRA board minutes for ’87 through ’89 reflect that same concern.  The one-campus project had become a two-campus operation, then a four-campus, multi-county operation, and then a multi-state operation.  It was about to become a multi-corporation operation.”

Harry argued that Lewis’ lack of experience in the senior healthcare industry was actually a major asset and it led to some of the unique aspects of Kendal. It enabled him to be free of the then-dominant paternal approach, treating old people as patients, not partners.

“We know from Lewis’ early publications that Kendal would be peopled by as-few-as-possible administrators and staff, and about 320 seniors who, supported by its facilities, staff, and services, would develop a self-governed and self-funded ‘community,’’ Harry reported. “There’d be no activities director here.  Residents would be expected to decide for themselves, through their residents association, the features of community life.  Each resident, no matter one’s health status, was to be part of the community, into which employees would come and go, each person warmly relating to the others.  There’d be no separate staff restrooms or lunchrooms.  Staff would freely use any of the resident-managed parts of the Center, including lounges, library, weaving room, woodshop, pottery studio, and the grounds.”

Supporting residents “of lesser means”. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting provided funds to help launch three retirement communities, of which Kendal was the third. Each provided some assistance for those who could not afford the full cost. Foulkeways had a “scholarship fund” to which residents contributed. Medford Leas excused part of the entry fee. Kendal developed what was described at the time as “a comprehensive fee structure which socializes costs in such a way that people of lesser means are able to join.” Kendal Board member Alan Hunt described this as “a plan … whereby the cost of the most expensive units be raised and the least expensive be reduced”.

Harry noted three other ways Kendal encouraged economic diversity:

  1. A quarter of all the residential units were to be studio cottages. 
  2. Minimizing costs was a second way forward. …
  3. Kendal wanted to … “widen the circle by developing new communities,” and in doing so, guide the emerging continuing care industry into countering ageism. 

The Kendal Reporter and the founders’ vision. From Kendal’s earliest days, the monthly Kendal Reporter kept new residents and prospective residents informed about life at Kendal. Lloyd Lewis had recruited Martin Klaver, retired editor of the Wilmington News Journal, to create it, and it became (in Harry’s words) “the most comprehensive and vivid display of the Founders’ short-term vision”. Through it, Lewis conveyed the tone of the place, including both its successes and its problems, and the sense of “interdependence” that he sought to establish. “With Klaver, [Lewis] portrayed Kendal as a process one could join rather than as a product to be bought,” Harry noted. “He was laying the foundation of community even before the first building was completed.”

The early issues of the Kendal Reporter do make interesting reading, and (thanks to the hard work of those putting together Kendal’s digital archives) they are now readily available, at this link.  

The role of residents and the Kendal Residents Association (KRA). In the second half of his presentation, Harry focused on the roles and responsibilities that were to be assumed by residents, in contrast to those that the administration (“management” was the preferred term) would take on. “By explicitly stating in one Reporter that he hoped residents, too, would want an independent residents association, Lewis also prepared residents to accept the authority of the Board of Directors and management for other matters,” Harry said.

As early as 1974, there was dissention among residents concerning whether to take issues to the administration directly or via the KRA. The KRA president that year “urged that the [KRA] not impair its  credibility by allowing individual groups to feel that they can exert more influence on management than another group, and that management should be urged to discourage such action.” Instead, the groups should use the KRA as the channel to voice concerns to the administration.

Harry commented, “Residents and their KRA, over the following decades, seem to have forgotten that advice.”

Harry continued:

“Lewis’s concept had been that KCC and the KRA were to be independent of each other, financially and otherwise, except when there was mutual interest in working together on projects that fell between or crossed into the other’s area of responsibility and authority. 

“Lewis had provided start up furniture for most of the areas that were to be managed by the KRA.  In line with that concept, he had asked the KRA to assign and oversee the uses of those spaces going forward, and also to pay for improvements that the KRA wanted.  The KRA did take the initiative when improvements were needed and the KRA paid for most of what the KRA wanted (the long list of examples is an eye-opener).

“Repairing and opening the swimming pool and sorting out how to pay for the repairs and a lifeguard was the first major test of the ability of the two independent organizations to work together.   Lower costs to KCC meant lower resident monthly-fee increases and, theoretically, a more affordable community.  When the KRA Board hoped for an improvement that would require on-going, rather than a one-time, expenditure, Lewis and the KRA Board usually found a way to share the cost, as was done regarding the pool.”

How the KRA’s role changed. Beginning in the 1990s, “the KRA tolerated residents and resident committees taking their wants and needs directly to management, rather than asserting its role in addressing such matters.  KRA non-involvement resulted in even more residents and KRA committees going directly to management or to particular staff members for wanted equipment, supplies, and other items.  Lewis’ orderly separation of KCC from KRA, which empower the KRA, was dissolving.”

“Overall, however,” Harry continued, “the ‘interdependence of all’ that Lewis nurtured did produce outcomes that all organizations hope for.  At one point in the 1970’s, the Kendal waiting list had over 1,000 names.  Staff members often stayed for decades.  Their children came to work here.  And they recommended Kendal employment to other relatives and neighbors.  Residents donated generously and made large bequests.  And Board members became KCC residents.  Among them were Joanna & Ted Savery; their children Sylvia and Joe; Sally Worth and her daughter Lark, and others.”

Kendal became more like other CCRCs. Harry expressed disappointment at how the relationship between the KRA and the administration evolved. “Alas, at KCC, the early and highly successful interdependence of board, residents, and staff proved to be a delicate construct.  In the CCRC industry, management often minimizes the interaction of board members and residents, unlike in smaller Quaker-founded organizations. At CCRCs, visioning and planning are typically done more ‘for’ rather than ‘with’ residents.  And executive leaders—this is true across the nation, not just in our area—increasingly come to CCRCs from other CCRCs, or from other sectors of the health-care industry, or hospitality industry, where the clients are not clients until death, are not highly invested in the organization, and don’t expect to have services provided in ways that respect and expand one’s independence and autonomy.”

Lloyd Lewis’ “General Principles”. In the 1981 Kendal Annual Report, Lloyd Lewis laid out five general principles that represented his vision for Kendal at the time:

  1. The communities are good places to live when they are good places to work….
  2. Employees are responsible for creating a friendly, non-institutional climate which supports the pursuit of excellence.
  3. Residents are responsible for the cultural and recreational life of the communities.
  4. Services are designed to enhance autonomy, not usurp it.
  5. Mentally impaired residents will not be segregated or isolated for service…. 

Harry noted that the last three of these “carry forward the founders’ vision” and are ideas that distinguish Kendal from other CCRCs. They “boldly declare what was achieved here.”

Loss of founding culture.  Harry expressed regret that some (but not all) aspects of what the founders achieved have been lost. “What is clear to me is that important aspects of Kendal’s original community-based, Quaker-influenced culture withered here.  Covid disrupted what remained.  But the bones of Lewis’ social design for Kendal at Longwood still exist: the village; the Center; Kendal Monthly Meeting; the integrated, high-quality health care; staff/resident relationships; the KRA’s Bylaws; and resident respect for and support of one another.”

Although we have lost some of the “interdependence of all” that Lloyd Lewis championed, we still have a lot to celebrate after 50 years. Harry’s final suggestion was, “Let’s give Kendal a big hug and a pat on the back.” 

Harry covered much more than this short summary can convey. I encourage you to read Harry’s written text or watch the video (both are linked in the second paragraph of this post).