If you look up the address for Masonic Homes Kentucky in the phone book, you might think it is located far away, nestled in some small, remote corner of the state with its 40041 zip code. It is, in fact, centered right in the core of St. Matthews, a town in its own right, with winding roads, mature trees and stately buildings throughout. Its campus is home not only to a corporate office but to multiple independent living communities, a skilled nursing center, a pediatric daycare for both healthy and medically fragile children and more.
Masonic Homes Kentucky is the oldest Masonic home in the world, founded in 1867. Originally, it served as a haven for the widows and children of Masons who had fought in the American Civil War. According to Casey Adams, Vice President of Independent Living, more than 600 children lived on the campus at one time and attended school on-site as well. The property also housed a farm and a vocational school, which provided food, shoes and other necessities for the widows and children.
“It was an all-encompassing, self-sustaining little town,” Adams says.
Over time, as orphanages fell out of favor, Masonic Homes moved into caring for older adults. In 1990, Pillars, a personal care community, was built. The Infirmary, a skilled nursing center, was housed in a building that had been built in 1926. Masonic Homes realized that it would need to make some renovations in order to offer older adults more living options.
The Sam Swope Care Center, a state-of-the-art skilled nursing community, opened in 2011, and it was followed later that year by Sproutlings Pediatric Day Care & Preschool, which brought children back onto the Masonic Homes campus. The first phase of Miralea Independent Living opened in 2012, and the second followed in 2015. The most recent high-end retirement community on campus is Meadow, which opened in July 2018. Village is another independent living option on site that provides more affordable situations for residents. Adams compares Masonic Homes to General Motors, which offers options for different individuals with different tastes and finances.
As if this isn’t enough, Masonic Homes is also the site of the Care Clinic for residents, staff and employees’ children. There is also a dialysis clinic on campus as well. In-patient and out-patient occupational and physical therapy is part of the Masonic Homes community, as is FirstLight, which offers companion and home care for people who want to remain independent for as long as possible. There are around 800 residents on the Louisville campus (with more at the Shelbyville and Northern Kentucky campuses).
When Meadow was in the conceptual phase, Masonic Homes Kentucky knew it wanted the community to look and feel very different from Miralea, which is a traditional design. The goal was to make Meadow an art-based community that would allow residents to both create and showcase art.
Within Meadow is a 100-foot art gallery that is at the center of the community. The gallery features a Dale Chihuly-inspired signature glass piece which was made by Brook White of Flame Run Gallery. This piece is 11 feet tall and weighs around 1,200 pounds.
“It is comprised of about 500 individual pieces of glass and is held together by a stainless steel conical frame,” Adams says. “It is incredible.”
Masonic Homes partners with Zephyr Gallery, which helps find work by local artists to showcase in the Meadow community. “If you want to base a senior living community around art, you have to be all in. You have to use local artists,” Adams says.
Tiffany Ackerman curates the art pieces that are on display in the gallery, which rotates quarterly. She selects a theme and presents it to the executive director of the Meadow. Once approved, “Tiffany goes out into the community and meets with artists to start compiling the work,” Adams says. She also serves as a broker if someone wants to buy a piece of art, acting as a liaison between the buyer and the seller.
Many of the pieces on exhibit in the gallery are created by residents in the Meadow’s art studio, a space with lots of natural light, where residents can do ceramics, paintings, drawings and other kinds of creative expression. The studio has a kiln and ADA-compliant pottery wheels so residents in wheelchairs or walkers can adjust the pottery wheels to fit their needs. Masonic Homes sought the advice of Kentucky Mudworks to help them outfit the studio appropriately.
While Meadow appeals to artists and those with aesthetic sensibilities, many residents discover hidden skills when taking art classes that the community offers. Teri McLaren teaches a variety of courses, including charcoal, acrylics, and ceramics. Classes come out of Masonic Homes’ budget, but residents dictate programming. “They want more classes than I can even schedule,” Adams says.
Benefits of Art
Humans have long had an affinity for expressing themselves through art, and while we think of the art itself as being the best thing to come out of creativity, there are other notable benefits, especially for seniors in retirement communities.
The art studio offers residents a way to socialize with others, whether they are taking a class together or simply doing their own artistic pursuits near others who are also doing their own things. Adams says making art helps residents’ neurons continue making new connections, a term known as neuroplasticity, which not only makes their lives more enjoyable but keeps their brains healthy and active. Finally, creating art gives residents a sense of purpose. What they do and make can benefit the community as a whole.
Exhibits to Connect With the Community
The first-ever exhibit at Meadow combined resident art with creations made by Masonic Homes’ employees. The second exhibit was intergenerational art created by residents, their children and their grandchildren.
In late August, photographs by resident Earl Miller were on display. Another exhibit that the Meadow gallery showcased was equestrian art created by 90-year-old resident Gloria Schrader.
“She had never had an art show until we gave her one,” Adams says. “She is wildly talented and had the entire gallery to herself.”
One of the future plans for Meadow is to utilize the art studio as a means of connecting residents with the children at Sproutlings. While residents already read to the children, make holiday cards and trick-or-treat, Masonic Homes wants to promote even more interaction.
“The interaction between Sproutlings and our older adults is a really important relationship that we foster like crazy,” Adams says.
Masonic Homes would like to make its residents’ art and gallery more open to the public, although this is a bit of a challenge because the Meadow is the residents’ homes.
“This big building is home to 150 people. You have to be very methodical if you’re going to open it up,” Adams says. “We’re trying to work through that without our residents feeling like their homes are being invaded.”
It tried its first Art Walk in September with the goal of gently introducing the public to the artistic talents of residents who reside in the Masonic Homes campus.