An Alabama retirement community recently recognized as a Center for Successful Aging says its research-based aging initiative has been a major draw for prospective residents.
Somerby of Mobile’s Masterpiece Living program, launched in 2009, was so successful that the Masterpiece organization awarded the community with the second-ever CSA designation.
Owned by Dominion Partners, Somerby of Mobile is an independent living, assisted living, and memory care community with around 260 units that’s more than 90% occupied.
The Masterpiece Living concept is based on a MacArthur Foundation Study on Aging which spanned 10 years and demonstrated that the aging process depends more on lifestyle choices than genes. The movement views aging as a time of growth for those who maintain physical and mental skills, reduce their risk for disease and injury, and stay productive and engaged with life.
“It was an opportunity for us to provide a differentiator for Somerby, compared to our competitors,” Jane Scrivner, executive director of Somerby at Mobile, says of implementing the initiative. “We already had a good program for our seniors—but a lot of people who have something that’s really good, want it to be really great.”
Somerby’s MPL program kicked off in August 2009, and Scrivner says the process of making it become part of the community’s culture took time, dedication, passion, “and some definite commitment” to ensure the translation from theory to practice.
“We broke [the initiative] into tangible parts, from programming to marketing materials to branding and the hiring and review processes,” Scrivner says. “As we included all those areas it became very visible of everyone to see: residents, families, friends, associates, prospects. It is who we are.”
Somerby of Mobile used a multi-disciplined approach with several people on the leadership team designated as MPL “champions.” In 2010, the community began collecting resident data in areas such as mental and physical well-being, the intellectual self, and mobility. By 2014, around 140 of the community’s 275 residents are participating in the program.
After collecting 2011- 2013 data Somerby’s ability to plan its yearly programming around residents’ needs improved. Data points are used to assess what residents need or want, from strength training for better balance to volunteer opportunities.
Individuals can access their own feedback reports and can also get coaching on how to improve their quality of living in the next year. On the back end, Somerby is able to compare its community-level data with the network of communities in the Masterpiece Living initiative at large and also in Alabama.
“We knew out of the gate that we’re serving a group of older adults at high risk for falls,” Scrivner says. That prompted a decision in 2012 to create a more aggressive fall-prevention program. Somerby of Mobile added an exercise physiologist to the time as a part-time consultant who leads classes on balance, strength, and endurance three times a week.
Another aspect of the MPL initiative is its focus on continued purpose.
“It’s unique for an older adult to be asked at a retirement community, ‘How do you want to grow in the next year?’ We decided we wanted to ask prospects even before they deposit, as soon as we meet a prospect,” says Scrivner.
Somerby of Mobile then gathers information from those who do move in, asking about life passions, what they consider to be their special purpose, and how the community can help that person to become more active.
Each month, new residents are asked how the Masterpiece Living program impacted their decision to move into Somerby. More than 80% of those recent residents and their families have told the community they “strongly agree” that Somerby’s successful aging initiative is an indicator of a community that has an active lifestyle with a whole-person wellness focus, and they’ve also indicated that the program played a “key role” in their decision to move into Somerby, according to Scrivner.
Now, Somerby is looking for ways to expand its initiative into the community at large, says its executive director.
“We’re always striving to improve, and now we’re thinking about how we can get others in the county of Mobile to think more about how they’re aging,” says Scrivner. “How do we take this show on the road? Someone might not live here [at Somerby], but now they’re talking about us.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace