Community Wellness with Mission — Beyond the Gates




Community wellness can be a half-hearted CCRC marketing pitch, “Yeah, we do wellness. Here’s a handout on chair stretches. Lock the exercise room when you’re done.” Or wellness  and successful aging can be an animating principle of a CCRC or Life Plan Community. How can you tell the difference between the ‘me, too’ many and the ‘excellent best practices’ few?

We recently ijudson park wellnessnterviewed Ken Ray, fitness coordinator for Judson Park. Judson Park is in Des Moines, Washington in the Greater Seattle area. Judson Park walks the walk of successful aging with their successful aging partner, Masterpiece Living. They are also reaching beyond their gates with a Club Judson Park Program. Ken described for us some of their successes. He also illustrated Judson’s larger community wellness mission. The mission is to be the center for senior wellness serving the larger Des Moines community.

Ken represents successful aging initiatives on campus and off. He has more than eight years tenure at Judson Park. Staff longevity and stability is always a healthy sign. There’s even some interesting research that happy staff is positively correlated with happy residents. We always pay attention to high staff turnover versus high stability. This was a good first sign. Ken’s a member of Judson Park Masterpiece Living Champion team. This is the leadership group for successful aging implementation. Ken is working on his MBA. Brains and brawn. Poised and well spoken. He hooked us with his insight and enthusiasm.

Judson Park plays a role in the larger Des Moines community’s health.

DAN:  Does that mean you’re delivering programs in other locations beyond Judson Park?

KEN: That is exactly what it means. We go to where the people are. We want Des Moines’ greater community to know that Judson Park is a hub for senior growth. We’re not just having you come to us, we’re going to go to you and meet wherever the need might take us. We have residents, like Sally Wold, who go to the food bank and donate their time. It’s not just team members, it’s team members and residents active in the community.

Ken works with the Des Moines Fire Department, FD Cares and the community senior center. He teaches a “Getting Up Off the Floor” program both on and off-campus.  The program is a functional fall prevention class and what to do should you get “on the floor.” It minimizes the use of fire departments services. It helps people recognize and manage their own fall risks. It has validity for on-campus residents but also for elderly anywhere.

There is a large local Spanish-speaking population in the community. Ken partnered with Angelica to offer community classes. Angelica Cabrera is a Hispanic team member from Judson Park’s housekeeping department. Ken and Angelica deliver sessions in Spanish at the senior center.

Ken: It wasn’t just me going down and Angelica translating for me. It was her learning the material. Her presenting it with me there to be her assistant. I was demonstrating on the floor while Angelica was actually giving the presentation. She can now take that to a group herself. Angelica takes that back to her family. And her family is now getting connected in with the senior center which is where she wanted her father to go. So it is a connection with the community. It illustrates that  Judson Park can best make those connections and support successful aging.

The senior center is not the only point of contact. Judson Park also works with the local elementary school. Judson Park volunteers help students improve their reading competency.

KEN: The first year it was, “Oh, the seniors are going to ‘help’”. The second year and subsequent years, when they get to know you, “Oh, that’s Judson Park”. It’s not seniors anymore. They are not old people. They’re friends. And some of them called us “friends with wrinkles.”  It takes the focus off of aging and puts it onto growing.

And that’s one of the secrets of successful aging. It’s not about disability, or what you can’t do it, it’s what you can do. Embrace continued growth. Both yours and others’.

DAN: That is an interesting insight. Your community, Judson Park, has that non-profit mission. You inspire community action above and beyond just the cash flow to sustain the main mission.  That mission is reflected in the community wellness of residents and the staff having a mission or purpose. Wellness goes beyond just diet and exercise, just the physical aspects of wellness. Wellness also includes social, emotional,  spiritual sides. Having a purpose in life and serving others sustains our emotional energy and connections. It really contributes to the quality of life and that is successful aging.

One of the dimensions of whole-person wellness is spiritual. Spiritual wellness is often reflected in mission or purpose or service. 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. But residents also benefit through that service in improved wellness. It’s a win-win synergy.

KEN: You mentioned the nonprofit mission and how it ties into volunteerism. That should be true even if you’re not a nonprofit organization.  That feeling should be a human mission. You volunteer your time to help others. But you never come out of helping someone else without helping yourself. You never come away from that untouched.

We just had our mobility fair. Eleven residents administered the senior fitness test. These residents volunteered to help. They ran through over ninety people total. Seventy-nine from our campus and about eleven or twelve from outside our campus. Without the resident volunteers, it would not have been possible. And when we first started, I was lucky if we had four people to help. The second year the word started to spread, we got about seven helpers. The next year was more. . . The sense of importance that you get from helping someone else resonates. Doing something important is rewarding. It’s validation for everybody, not just seniors. It is a human need to be able to feel valued and feel important.

Ken conveys these several activities as examples of an integrated philosophy. It’s Judson Park’s mission expressed in community engagement. It is supporting community wellness and successful aging. It’s the combined actions of both staff and residents.

Conclusion. The lesson from Judson Park’s experience with Masterpiece Living’s successful aging program include:

  • Mission and Community. The mission and service shouldn’t stop at the campus boundaries. Opportunities to help the wider community help yourself. They build relationships with public agencies, hospital systems, and schools. They can create cash flow or complement marketing. But they are not just cash flow or marketing. Community wellness services give both residents and staff purpose. We help ourselves by helping others.

(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.)