By Linda White
Visiting Carleton-Willard Village (CWV) on Old Billerica Road you cannot help but appreciate the natural beauty of the setting and its relationship to Bedford’s historic Llewsac Lodge. Once inside, you notice the gracious, warm, welcoming surroundings, lively activity, and friendly greetings of residents making their way along CWV’s interior Main Street, the hub of the Village, where residents run into and greet friends and neighbors several times a day while en route to its many resource areas. With approximately 300 residents and 300 employees on the 65-acre site, you have to wonder what makes it all tick so efficiently and successfully. The likely answer is easy — the Carleton-Willard Village President and CEO, Barbara A. Doyle, who has been at the helm since the Carleton-Willard Village Bedford campus opened in 1982.
The Boston Globe Magazine and its partner the Commonwealth Institute recently named Barbara Doyle of Carleton-Willard Village to the Top 100 List of Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts for the second year in a row. The recognition is not a surprise to residents, employees, staff members, or the CWV Board of Trustees. Doyle’s focus, attention to detail, and love for all things associated with CWV are legendary.
Doyle describes her management style as “management by walking.” She is a visible presence and reminder of what she considers to be the guiding principles of carrying out the CWV mission of respect, quality, community, integrity, leadership, dignity, access, innovation, and partnership. Doyle explained, “We strive to teach our staff and employees, including the many Bedford High School students who are employed in our dining room, what we are all about. It is about treating people with respect as if they are members of our personal family. All of our employees, staff members, and residents share an expectation of excellence and the bar is justifiably high. We are an established and national leader as a continuing care retirement community. In fact, when we opened our doors, we were the first continuing care retirement community in Massachusetts.”
A history of caring and working with an aging population characterizes Doyle’s personal and work experience. Growing up in the Chicago area with her mother and two grandmothers, she saw first-hand a model of care that exhibited respect, interest, and love for an aging population. Her mother administered the first licensed nursing home in Chicago, and Doyle functioned as the receptionist from an early age. Initially, she was drawn to pediatric oncology nursing as a career, but more often than not, found herself drifting down to the end of the hall to spend time with the geriatric patients. A change in her college course of study brought her to the field of psychology and eventually to Boston for graduate school.
Asked how she would describe the residents of CWV, Doyle replied, “They are an energetic group of individuals, still interested in continuing their level of intellectual and physical stimulation, and who still believe they can make a difference. And they do make a difference by volunteering, giving back, and being involved in a variety of Bedford organizations – in the schools, at the Council on Aging, participating in community events, and by supporting their CWV friends and neighbors. They maintain a zest for life. They have strength in the face of diversity and demonstrate resilience in life. Our youngest residents are 65 years old. We have a good number in their mid-80’s and quite a few who are more than 100 years old.”
Independent residents of CWV live in a variety of housing types, including two-bedroom Cape Cod style cluster homes in woodland settings and in one or two-bedroom apartments. Residents requiring additional care and support services, skilled nursing services, short-term care and/or rehabilitative services reside in Llewsac Lodge, a short walk down the hallway from Main Street. Unlike assisted living facilities in Massachusetts, Llewsac Lodge is fully licensed to provide a full range of nursing assistance for residents as needed. A specialized memory care unit is also part of Carleton-Willard’s campus.
Taking an active role in meeting all potential residents, as well as their dogs, prior to their relocating to CWV is just one of the ways that Doyle begins to build a relationship with residents. She also meets on a regular and ongoing basis with resident representatives. Each townhouse court and apartment building elects a representative and alternate to serve on the Residents’ Council, providing an official communication vehicle for carrying messages to and from management, seek answers to questions, and to keep residents up to date on changes. The Residents’ Council operates with its own by-laws, powers, finances, and holds monthly meetings open to all residents. Council members also include residents who chair a myriad of more than 32 subcommittees. An Executive Committee of five represents the wishes of the Council, allocating and spending monies as voted and it also meets with the Board of Trustees.
Doyle continued, “We have a very dedicated workforce. Many of them are from Bedford and/or the surrounding communities. Our Employee Recognition ceremony in May will recognize employees who have worked here for three to 40 years. Our workforce represents generations of families as well as lateral relationships. They all share the same characteristics – a sense of respect, engagement, and are people who love our residents as family. It is also a big part of what draws prospective residents to CWV.”
Doyle is excited about the positive reception and growth their newest initiative, Carleton-Willard at Home, has received since opening in 2009. At Home is an innovative membership-based, not-for-profit organization designed to help seniors remain in their own home as they age. This is accomplished by providing assistance with practical day-to-day tasks and access to social, cultural, and educational activities, health and wellness programs, and volunteer opportunities. At Home serves adults 65 and older living in Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, and Winchester.
CWV recently submitted a proposal to the Town of Bedford Planning Board for approval of up to a dozen additional independent living units to accommodate couples and meet the demand of an aging and mobile group of senior citizens. “We see a growing need as the demographics indicate,” explained Doyle. “The baby boomers are planners, and they’re ready to make a move. Therefore, the additional ten to twelve new cluster homes will be able to make a small dent in our very significant waitlist.”
The Storied History of Carleton-Willard Village Dates to 1882
The history of Carleton-Willard Village begins with the lives of three women who were far ahead of their time in terms of their commitment to providing shelter, work, and care for young women in need. Frances E. Willard, Caroline Caswell, and Elizabeth Carleton each played vital roles in bringing CWV to life and along the way championed the needs of those less fortunate. (Llewsac is Caswell’s name spelled backward.) The first Llewsac Lodge, located in Bedford, was built originally as a hospital for addicts of drugs and alcohol.
According to Ruth Drinker, a former CWV resident and historian, the Llewsac Lodge and adjacent farmland were purchased by the Frances E. Willard Settlement in 1909. Following initial renovations, the occupants were “older women, in the 40-60 year-old age group, who needed a helping hand, were over-tired with long months of office work and in need of a rest, convalescing from an illness or perhaps out of work, discouraged and disheartened, needing not only temporary material aid, but a moral and spiritual uplift as well. … Some of the guests were in need of employment to meet the costs of room and board. The farm offered an answer – guests engaged in the harvest and sale of produce and the canning of fruits and vegetables. They also developed Llewsac Industries, which included the weaving of fine linens and handsome rugs.”
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs defines a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) as “different from other types of senior housing because these communities provide housing, personal services, and health care, usually at one location. CCRCs offer an environment and the services necessary for residents to age in place. In other words, as a person’s personal and health care needs change, they are able to remain at the retirement community… CCRCs typically combine a variety of housing options on one campus, from townhouses or cottages for independent living to assisted living apartments for elders who need some personal care assistance, to nursing home accommodations for elders who require more comprehensive care. As the health needs of an individual change over time, residents have access to different apartments and housing styles within the CCRC campus.” https://www.mass.gov/elders/housing/ccrc/ccrc-overview.html.
Read Linda White’s companion piece, A Snapshot of Some Carleton-Willard Villagers