[caption id="attachment_219370" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Kendal Corp., the support organization for a network of senior living communities, has leased a floor at the future FinTech Innovation Hub at the University of Delaware's STAR Campus set to open this year. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
NEWARK – The Kendal Corp., a support organization for a network of senior living centers, will move its headquarters from Kennett Square, Pa., to the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, officials announced this week.The 49-year-old, Quaker-founded organization has signed a lease for the entire sixth floor of the FinTech Innovation Hub that is currently under construction at the campus. It plans to move roughly 40 employees into the space this summer, said Kendal President and CEO Sean Kelly.Kendal has a network of 12 communities in nine states, focusing primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and in New England, all of which are independently owned and operated. They pay annual fees to the central organization, which provides central services, consultation and innovation that benefits the members and residents, Kelly explained.The organization began after a group of Quakers from the Philadelphia and Wilmington areas grew older and recognized that none of the existing living situations fit their desires for an independent and engaging experience, Kelly said. In 1973, they founded what is today known as Kendal-Crosslands Communities, located near Longwood Gardens.“Kendal, from its roots, had this idea that just because we're getting older, doesn't mean that we're done; it doesn't mean there aren’t continued opportunities for growth, opportunities to have impact on the world around us, opportunities to express and have great purpose,” Kelly said. “I would say if you go to a Kendal community, you would witness aging in a way that most of the world doesn't appreciate can exist.”While most residents of a Kendal community live independently, there are resources available for home-based care, assisted living, nursing and memory care for when they should need them. The communities also host continuing education opportunities, including college courses, new language instruction and music classes.Many other organizations around the country now use the Kendal model.The need for innovative approaches to senior living could not be more urgent. About 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, a trend that will continue until 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the workforce to support that growth has not yet materialized and has been further hurt by the pandemic. A recent American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living survey found that nearly every nursing home and assisted living community is currently facing a workforce crisis, while federal data shows 380,000 nursing home workers have left during the pandemic.“Our role expressing leadership and innovating into our field is becoming just as vital as our role to support the existing Kendal operators, which is a part of why coming to the University of Delaware is so important for us,” Kelly said.The growth of Kendal’s communities, especially its first on the West Coast in California set to open in 2023, along with the societal changes amid the pandemic convinced Kendal executives to look at moving their headquarters. They knew they wanted to be on a campus where innovation could be a focus, and Kendal has long partnered with UD, but also University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, West Chester University and Widener University, among others.Ultimately, Kendal chose UD, where it has long had a relationship with its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, because of a “perfect fit” of values and resources, Kelly said. The brand-new FinTech center and access to Amtrak and major highways only made the choice easier, he added.With innovation in care for patients and operation of facilities at the top of their objectives, Kelly said that Kendal is excited to collaborate with UD’s highly regarded physical therapy, nursing, mechanical engineering, and education schools.“Before COVID, we were beginning to see an extraordinary intersection of traditional health care with long-term care, and that intersection has become more and more apparent since 2020,” he said.Kelly expects Kendal residents to work with UD students and researchers to help train future workforces and innovate new solutions. It’s something residents were already enthusiastic about in a recent two-year study of the effects of mindfulness and meditation on their health run by Thomas Jefferson University researchers.“The residents who have chosen to come to Kendal for generations intend to be a part of what happens next,” Kelly said.Kendal also recognizes how technology will become a bigger part of the senior care equation into the future, especially as workforces may be strained and residents become more at ease with its use, Kelly said.For example, at its Chicago community, residents have worked with Amazon to determine how the company’s Alexa artificial intelligence could benefit them and how the company could successfully gear technology to older populations. Meanwhile, robots there are also being investigated as a way to help relieve workforces.“If we can have a robot picking up dishes or dropping off meals at a table, so that we can free up more hands to deliver direct care to those folks who need it, and will flourish as a result of it, then we need to do that,” he said.As Kendal prepares for the future, Kelly said they want to grow headcounts at existing communities while continuing to serve best-in-class services. It doesn’t have immediate future growth plans, but an additional community in California or its first in Delaware are possibilities, he added, noting that university towns are quickly becoming targeted areas due to their proximity to services and innovation and typically walkable campuses.