After more than a century of providing highly reputable care and services to masons and non-masons, Masonic Health System of Massachusetts, Inc. chose to further expand its footprint and amplify its mission of “Empowering individuals to realize their potential where they live and work.” In 2006, Overlook Communities, a new independent living residence for seniors, was completed and added to The Overlook’s continuum based in Charlton, MA.
As a financially stable Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Overlook Communities has helped to transform Masonic Health System and The Overlook’s long-standing and trusted organization into a leading provider of contemporary senior living in central Massachusetts.
In the past several years, The Overlook has achieved many successful milestones. Guiding the forward progress—while fulfilling Masonic Health System’s vision for those whom it serves—has been a strong board of directors led by Kenneth Blake, Tameryn Campbell, CEO of Masonic Health System, and a talented and passionate executive leadership team, including Mike Quirk, Executive Director.
Relocating from Seattle, WA, Tameryn came aboard in 2014 to help bolster the financial health of the entire organization and create a self-sustaining retirement community and a work environment with great morale and the highest quality of care. In four short years, she and her team have helped guide the organization to unprecedented financial and operational stability, while accomplishing several industry achievements and satisfaction awards.
Today, The Overlook aims to capitalize on its foundational stability and its legacy of serving both masons and non-masons to create an unequaled community that is open to everyone.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do is take a 100-year-old organization with a great reputation and reestablish it and reidentify it as a CCRC with a robust independent living,” Mike explained. “For us, that’s a big deal, and we are gaining momentum.”
A new decade sparks enhancements at The Overlook
Looking ahead to 2020, an array of upgrades that The Overlook will be undertaking this year includes enhancements to The Overlook’s culinary program. In 2019, The Overlook recruited a James Beard award-winning chef/chief of culinary services, Jeremy Roush, to launch the culinary program into an entirely new level focusing on farm-to-table initiatives highlighting local farmers and flavors.
To that end, in 2019 The Overlook formed a unique and promising relationship with a commercial boutique mushroom grower by selling 3 acres of its approximately 450+ acre Charlton campus to Brad Allain, the owner of Wildwood Mushrooms. The new facility, which is expected to open this spring, will comprise a 5,000-square-foot building yielding 2,000 pounds of mushrooms per week. Mushrooms such as oyster, shiitake, chestnut, black poplar and lion’s mane mushrooms will be offered. Research on the now sought after lion’s mane mushrooms has shown hopeful evidence that this incredible fungus may have a revolutionary impact on brain cells and related functions as well as neurodegenerative diseases.
Mike added that The Overlook will expand Wellness 411, which is a multidimensional program incorporating all eight dimensions of wellness: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial and environmental. Part of the ongoing initiatives for community-wide wellness includes enhancing one of The Overlook’s best features: its 400-acre campus.
“We’re about to add helpful signage to The Overlook’s extensive trail system that encompasses all 450 acres,” Mike said. “We’re working with members of the community and The Overlook’s fitness team to enhance our trails with guided hikes and more opportunities for trail use. The town of Charlton also collaborated with The Overlook to create a map of the whole trail system so even more people can use it.”
Forming a master plan five years out
The board of directors and executive leadership team are already thinking about how to position The Overlook and Masonic Health System for changes coming to senior living by 2025.
In 2020 The Overlook will embark on master planning with the notion that more and more baby boomers will be moving in; the goal is to maximize options for what will appeal to that generation. This dynamic, long-term planning document will not only provide a conceptual layout to guide future growth on the Charlton campus, but also serve as the basis of connection between its existing layout and infrastructure, future programming and development, and the surrounding environment.
Through master planning and plans to reinvigorate Masonic Health System’s philanthropy and fund-raising program over the next 12 to 18 months, the board of directors, executive leadership team and key stakeholders will establish how the services, environment and culture that The Overlook provides will need to evolve to make it a destination retirement community for the next generation of retirees. This means maximizing amenities people want, creating even more culinary options, and offering activity and recreation options that are also open to the public.
Tameryn shared her passion about “expanding The Overlook beyond its singular use as a retirement community into a popular mixed-use environment, attracting chefs, artisans, select retailers and visitors of all ages from the surrounding region and beyond.” She believes strongly in the growing evidence that mixed-use environments and an intergenerational approach will benefit residents, families and team members—giving them immediate proximity and access to shopping, restaurants, entertainment, outdoor activities and more.
“Seniors and people in general aren’t designed to sit idly or be isolated on a remote campus. The Overlook’s programs and vision for the future will be designed to promote wellness and really encourage an active, social lifestyle for our residents and people of all ages in the surrounding area.”
Continuing to evolve alongside Charlton, MA, and beyond
Nobody really knows what the long-term future will hold for The Overlook or communities like it in the 2030s, 2040s or beyond, but prognostications related to the organization’s overall vision are promising. The first has to do with The Overlook’s location and working in parallel with the town of Charlton’s growth. The Overlook, which is immediately adjacent to downtown, seeks to evolve alongside and in conjunction with Charlton and become an anchor for the community.
Tameryn expanded on this notion. We foresee The Overlook, in the very long term, as a “community within a community.” Coupled with the Town of Charlton’s plans for a Village Center, The Overlook’s expansive land, buildings, trail system, mushroom farm, hotel, barn and other facilities will help it become a central contributor to Charlton’s increased commerce stream, while designing a more robust view of what senior living can and should look like.
In the longer term, she foresees a larger master plan comprising an Overlook Banquet and Events Center, a boutique hotel and farm-to-table restaurant open to both residents and the public—along with targeted retail attracting more people of all ages to Charlton and enabling The Overlook to further invest in its mission over the coming decades.
Although changes like that may seem avant-garde now, some are already materializing.
The greater Charlton community currently gets invited to engage with The Overlook through its fall festival, summer concert series and pop-up farmers markets, with additional events planned for the future to help deepen the “community within a community” feeling.
Beyond this, as Mike added, “It’s about providing what people want. We’re on the front end of the next couple of decades of significant change to senior living, with people staying at home longer and desiring more amenities and an even higher quality of life. Our Visiting Nurse Association already provides home and community based services across the state of Massachusetts; we have to continue to listen and keep providing what people want. I believe we’re really well suited for that and serving people in all ways.”
That said, Mike made sure to not get too caught up in talk about the future. “What we’re sure of today,” he said, “is that this is a beautiful place that surprises people with its central New England location. Plus, we’re really hitting our stride and have some exciting plans to come. We want people to see and experience us firsthand—they’ll be impressed.”
There is no question that a firsthand look at The Overlook is sure to impress. To request your own visit, simply click here or call 866-753-5429 today!