This year, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Kendal at Longwood!
Kendal started from a grant from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, to form a retirement community that would truly transform the experience of aging. In 1970, retirement was just starting to become a new, separate stage in life. Seniors made up about 10% of the population, and those numbers were going to grow as the Baby Boom generation reached retirement age.
Residents at Kendal at Longwood Will be writing a series of articles about the History of Kendal and Kendal at Longwood, and we’ll be sharing these stories with you on our blog.
In the Beginning- there was mud
New Year’s Day, 1973 dawned unseasonably warm and dry, especially welcome after the previous month’s drenching rain. The change in weather was an auspicious omen for the historic opening year of the Kendal at Longwood community whose 50th anniversary we now celebrate.
Since the groundbreaking in November 1971, Kendal had been under construction. Already there were five completed “sample” cottages, foundations for 219 more cottages, and the beginning of the Kendal Center. Visitors and Kendal’s first four residents in January of 1973 experienced Kendal as a sodden mess.
The Initial Grant and Idea
In future articles, we’ll meet some of our Founders and talk more about the construction, but first, let’s back up a bit and talk about how Kendal came to be. The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, maintains a long and cherished tradition of support for people as they age. Quakers are loosely organized into “yearly” meetings comprised of “quarterly” and then local “monthly” meetings. Kendal owes its existence to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM), which encompassed parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. PYM included a Committee on Aging Friends which initially attempted to meet the need of the expanding aged population with financial support for additional nursing homes. Using surveys, PYM soon realized that a more desirable approach to aged housing would be independent, private units with lifetime medical care. PYM decided to offer seed money to establish this kind of community, starting with a $300,000 loan to Foulkeways at Gwynedd, PA which opened in 1967, followed shortly by Medford Leas in New Jersey. Thus Kendal was the third retirement community in our region, all seeded by PYM.
West Chester Friends
Meanwhile, West Chester Monthly Meeting was struggling with its inability to meet the demand for the aged care offered at the West Chester Friends Hall. Sarah (Sally) Worth, a member of PYM, would become the “midwife” of Kendal when the West Chester Friends found 77 “perfect” acres near Kennett Square.
In late 1970, PYM agreed to grant $225,000 to purchase this perfect land and tossed in additional funding to hire architects and an Executive Director to manage the project. In reflecting on Kendal’s beginnings, Richard Worth gave credit for the idea to his wife Sally, Alan Hunt, and Dorothy Cooper. This post is one of a series compiled by the 50th Anniversary Committee to celebrate Kendal’s history. Informational sources for these anniversary posts include the 20 issues of the Kendal Reporter, the Story of Kendal by Ruth Malone and An Act of Faith by Barbara Parsons.
Sally Worth, Midwife of Kendal
It was a soggy, rainy day on November 29, 1971, when Sally Worth lifted the first shovel of dirt at Kendal at Longwood’s groundbreaking. The groundbreaking was the culmination of the local West Chester Meeting Committee’s search for the perfect location near West Chester.
This first Kendal community would bring to reality Sally’s vision: growing older could be a time of growth and joy when shared in community.
Working together, Sally and Richard (Dick) Worth had led that search, and now presided over the ground-breaking. It was Sally’s vision and energy which designated her as “midwife” to the newborn community of Kendal.
The local West Chester Meeting Committee evolved into the first Kendal Board of Directors, where both Dick and Sally continued their leadership. Dick served as Chair of the Kendal Board of Directors until 1978, and both continued to serve on the Board for another decade.
As a Board member, Sally interviewed many of the Founders (First Residents of Kendal at Longwood) before their October 1973 move-in and welcomed them with a yellow rose in an empty beer bottle, a tradition that continues today.
In March of 2013, the Worth children, Lark and Richard, shared their memories of Richard and Sally Worth with a packed house of Kendal residents. To quote from the March 2013 Reporter, “They shared photos of the construction, as builders created a special place where ‘nature, natural light, and simple decorations’ would provide the setting for ‘another way to age with grace and dignity…. there needed to be a better lifestyle for elders than living alone, beset by health and personal safety concerns. Sally contributed her passion and personal contacts — as well as ‘a talent for arm-twisting’.….
As Lark commented, they ‘listened carefully to each other, and all decisions were made by consensus’”. Sally and Richard were among the first residents of Cartmel, ultimately moving to Kendal. Richard and Sally died in 2007 and 2012, respectively, each at the age of 93. They had been married 59 years.
A Lifetime of Medical Care….
Almost all 224 cottages at Kendal at Longwood had signed contracts by the end of January 1973 with the move-in date still nine months away! How could this be? Kendal was a muddy mess, and the Kendal Center was under construction. There was no Health Center or healthcare staff. Only a few residents lived in sample houses and none of the amenities we now enjoy. If the Resident Founders didn’t come for the beautiful cottages, the nature trails, or the caring community, why did they come?
Lloyd Lewis answered that question emphatically in a 1984 New York Times article: “The reason people come here is for health care,” says Mr. Lewis. “This is a community for independent, well, older people. Health care is there for them when they need it.” Various Founders, when interviewed, repeated that answer: it was the health care guarantee that convinced them to sell their homes and move to Kendal. The health care guarantee offered in 1973 was generous indeed. Virtually all health care was provided at no cost to Kendal residents; Kendal did ask that residents carry insurance and reimburse Kendal for payments made to them by their insurance company.
The average age of the Founders was 74 years old; it was anticipated that the average Resident would live just 11 years. However, the actuarial tables used to calculate the entry fees for Kendal and other CCRCs failed to recognize that by 2020, the fastest-growing segment of the US population would be the over 85 year-olds.
Pictures from Early Kendal at Longwood