Are you growing or marking time?

Masterpiece Living is a benchmarked wellness program in use by some of the leading Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) or Life Plan Communities.





Wellness is a buzzword everyone uses. We sense being well is inherently good. It’s something we value, the more aging catches up to us with its aches and pains and indignities. But what exactly does wellness mean when we’re past the blush and strength of youth? It must mean more than the absence of health challenges. Every senior living environment advertises wellness. But can they all deliver? Is it a little like quality? Everyone sells quality. But what level of quality? We say quality, but what we want is high quality. Similarly, we want to be as well as we can be today. We’ve been digging into wellness as a key intangible in retirement living. We discovered several leading continuing care retirement communities are partnering with a wellness expert. That expert? Masterpiece Living.

Masterpiece Living Origins

We reached out to Masterpiece Living. We wanted to learn more about what they offer from the customer or senior resident viewpoint. We’d met Dr. Roger Landry at LeadingAge Boston in 2015 (the annual meeting). Dr. Landry is the author of, Live Long, Die Short, A guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging.  See the CCRC LifeCast book club review of Live Long, Die Short, here.

We watched some of Dr. Landry’s YouTube videos. Masterpiece’s big idea is that we can largely choose how we age. Genetics plays a smaller role than most of us think. But sometimes Dr. Landy’s discussions got into the academic weeds and jargon. The audience for some of these were senior community managers. Not end consumers or senior community residents. And Dr. Landy’s pitch was geared to the professionals. We needed help translating to plain English and resident benefit. Why should consumers care if their senior community offers Masterpiece Living? Or what separates Masterpiece Living from run-of-the-mill wellness programs?




The Judson Park example

First, We connected with one of the Masterpiece Living partners, Judson Park. Judson Park is a senior living community successfully using the Masterpiece Living system. We previously shared Dan’s interview with Judson Park staff and residents.

Judson Park is part of the American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW) group. It is located on Puget Sound in Des Moines, Washington, between Seattle and Tacoma. We came away from Judson Park impressed with the animating sense of purpose displayed by both senior management and the resident seniors. In fact, that purpose is the point. Successful aging or senior wellness requires social purpose and self-defined goals.

Judson Park staff and residents

Wellness, it turns out, is about more than strength and agility, diet, or physical health. There are psycho-social components as well. Social and spiritual aspects of wellness strongly influence the physical aspects and our perception of life. Yes, no one gets out alive, but living well while aging is possible. Community connections and personal mission or purpose are essential.

The Secret Sauce

Next, We wanted to tie the book (Live Long, Die Short) and the Judson Park example together. The spiritual and social benefits don’t have to be left to serendipity or chance. So we spoke with Masterpiece Living and here’s what we learned.

There’s a secret sauce. Masterpiece Living offers communities and residents the proven, research-based tools to choose longer health and happier lives. Wellness is more a choice, not an accident. And there’s a system to improve our outcomes both objectively and subjectively. Can we see and measure the results? Can we bridge the gap between what the experts know and what we can choose? And can we perceive and feel the difference when we follow the Masterpiece Living program? Yes. To all.

We asked for an explanation. What does Masterpiece Living do? Why should consumers care?

Masterpiece Living’s Vision: A society in which aging means growth, engagement, vitality and purpose.

Masterpiece Living, we were told, is a company of experts on aging with a lot of experience in complementary disciplines. They pour over the successful aging research and stay current. Research unapplied, just sitting on the shelf, does no good. They work to apply the research in repeatable systems. They make it practical for the real world. They create tools or resources so that both experts and consumers can use the lessons learned.

Masterpiece Living creates campaigns and programs and tools and education. All different ways to apply the research. Why? Because their goal is to create an environment encouraging growth and maximizing potential, regardless of age.  

We saw at Judson Park,  staff living this model and not just doing things to or for senior residents. One source of Masterpiece Living’s success is it animates the community, residents, and staff.

Still, we wanted to press a bit on this point. Masterpiece talks about what they do, but we wanted to understand the benefits. What does the resident see or feel or experience? How are campaigns tested for effectiveness? How do we know it works?

The program is resident directed. Residents formulate their own goals. But the program also uses metrics and progress measurement to encourage progress and prove results. Masterpiece Living has experts in data analytics that most communities don’t have in-house. Survey tools and data help focus both management and residents on a change that can make the most difference in individual lives and collectively for the community.

Living the Lessons of Successful Aging

Here’s our take away —  

It’s much like being in a university environment. If you are in a university, you are there to achieve your potential and to grow in a specific area. Every department of your university — the professors, the administrators, everyone — is there to help individuals achieve their academic potential and grow.

The end-user, college student equivalent, for Masterpiece Living is someone who lives in a retirement community. The retirement community [or CCRC] is a partner with Masterpiece. The Masterpiece Living system immerses everyone in that senior community into a successful aging culture. Done well, every single person — down to the dining room server — lives the lessons of successful aging. The goal is for both staff and residents, in their heart of hearts, to believe that all people should be growing and can be growing — no matter where you lay your head at night — assisted living even memory support —  it doesn’t matter.

The University Analogy

The benefit is a culture that promotes growth rather than just waiting out life. We like the university analogy for CCRCs. We use it often. We see the best CCRCs seem to offer a return to that collegial social experience, albeit with nicer rooms than our college dorm offered. Masterpiece Living extends that college analogy beyond just the lifestyle to a shared purpose to support personal growth. We like that. We tend to live up to or down to the expectations of those around us. Culture matters.

As a society, we need to change perceptions and raise expectations or our communities and elderly. It’s partly our fault these misconceptions persist. We see these great CCRC communities who do great things where people are coming to live, not to die.

Masterpiece Living works to raise the collective bar for everybody in the field. Because we can all do better. Our goal must be to support growth not to wait out decline.

We need to tell our success stories well. And that is part of what Masterpiece Living helps these communities do.