For more than a decade, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News have profiled new and renovated communities as a way to show the industry how creative and revolutionary organizations can be in developing new environments for their residents. And although being showcased in “Design Successes” certainly is a validation of these efforts, there is another, major step that operators can take to demonstrate excellence in seniors housing — the Center for Successful Aging Certification.

Created by Masterpiece Living, a multi-specialty group that currently partners with more than 80 organizations to “maximize the potential of older adults,” the CSA designation identifies “the best successful aging destinations in the country.” Masterpiece Living President Roger Landry, M.D., said CSA holders “are organizations that have set themselves apart from all others by implementing best successful aging practices that promote resilience and benefit both residents and team members.”

Landry and his team at Masterpiece Living have made it their mission to change the senior living industry in various ways, promoting “outside the box” thinking in terms of culture, environment and even vocabulary to improve seniors’ lives. A CSA designation means that the community not only “talks the talk, but walks the walk” in terms of developing a culture and living space where residents are able to grow and thrive, not just reside and idly bide their time.

“We champion the concept of successful aging,” Landry said. “We are striving to make it understand- able, attainable and present a road- map for achieving a true culture of growth. This is the environment we want for older adults.”

Design plays an integral role in creating this ideal view of environment — Landry called it a feng shui approach, using the physical surroundings to “bring out the internal feelings of individuals, how they look at life and how they can reduce stress.”

Now in its third year, the CSA program places culture as its core criterion but also rates communities on the quality of their leadership, engagement and public outreach. Teresa Amaral Beshwate, managing director of operations for Masterpiece Living, said physical environment isn’t always related to culture, but “it certainly can be,” pointing out how lighting can enhance the atmosphere of an underused section of the build- ing or how garden courtyards can serve as natural gathering places on warm days.

Beshwate cited The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens in Fresno, CA, as an example of how a CSA designee has broken the mold in terms of redefining culture. To build the community’s village concept, the organization challenged and rewrote building codes to construct an environment that optimized the living experience for its residents.