What’s the secret to “the good life”? Doing good for others, asserts Ken Jaeger, founder/CEO of MorningStar Senior Living (whose Kirkland community for active seniors opens this December). Those who practice this attitude can attest that it’s the surest way to enrich your own life, Jaeger says.
“The impact of service is a changed life — for both the receiver and the giver. Just as often, it brings the return of hope.”
Jaeger does not mince words when it comes to exhorting others to live a life of selfless giving. Whether speaking to his team, seniors or any audience, his words are often these: “Don’t wait to serve. Serve now. Today. Get involved somewhere. It will make you a better person.”
In retirement, new avenues of volunteerism open. With a wealth of experience, the wisdom of age, and a more elastic schedule, retirees are ideally situated to extend themselves in purposeful activity for the sake of others. In so doing, they just might land upon the greatest adventure yet.
Jaeger speaks from experience, for philanthropy has been a central theme of his own life and that of his company. He goes first to his highest motivation. “Jesus couldn’t have been clearer when he exhorted us to ‘love others as I have loved you.’ We are created for love, expressed through service to others.”
Jaeger says that framing service as purely sacrificial misses much of the point. “When you enter the world of the poor, when you take a child from the streets and see to it that they are sheltered, fed and clothed, you’re witnessing the power of love, you’re being love in action. The transformation we are wanting for ourselves is found in helping to transform others.”
MorningStar’s President Mark Andrzejewski joined Jaeger on a recent trip to hurricane-torn eastern Nicaragua. “The trip was humbling and revealing. Everywhere you look are people that need help, and not always monetary help,” Andrzejewski says. “Just as meaningfully you can give the gift of your presence, to sit and listen. Whether in Kirkland, Washington or a developing nation, people have the same hopes and dreams. We can all encourage each other in that.”
For 18 years, MorningStar has been shaping its identity around impacting the world for good. Team members are drawn to the company for this very reason. Dining Room Supervisor Cassidy Jones credits MorningStar’s culture training as a crossroad. “It flooded my heart with what I’ve always believed about how to live life.” Thus motivated, she researched orphanages in Africa, six months later traveling to one in Tanzania. “I came away from that service more grounded in the fact that to give love is the only path to fulfillment.”
Naomi Jaeger echoes her father in exhorting others to invest themselves. After living two years in the Nicaraguan orphanage MorningStar supports, she says, “My worldview has changed. I now live in the light of what I saw and experienced in Nicaragua. I respond to people here with more patience and understanding, see people with eyes of grace. In a word, you learn to love people better.”
Her brother John adds, “One of my favorite things is matching people (and their talents) with the needs of a hurting world. Once you heighten your sensitivity, you see opportunities everywhere to step up. It lights a fire in you to engage more and more with other people’s stories.”
Through the work of its Foundation, MorningStar is just as committed to giving back locally. Every community chooses a local nonprofit to support with hearts and hands. “Volunteerism not only forges a better connection with our neighborhoods, its another way to live out our mission,” says Jaeger. “And serving together makes for wonderful relationship-building among team and residents.”
To invite seniors into an active, engaged lifestyle in the service of others is a healthy proposition.
MorningStar Senior Living is a developer, owner and operator of premier retirement communities. After 18 years, MorningStar has become a landmark name in senior housing, celebrated for its philanthropic initiatives. Its portfolio encompasses over 30 communities throughout the United States.