Martha Stewart transformed domestic duties into an art form, and today, she presides over a multimillion-dollar empire that encompasses magazines, TV shows, web sites, and home goods. Given her successes, Stewart considers philanthropy a personal responsibility. "Giving back is just part of a good life, and it makes me feel good," she says.
In 2007, with a $5 million donation, she opened the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The center fills a need for quality senior health care at a time when 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 daily -- a phenomenon Stewart calls "the silver tsunami." She dedicated the center to her mother, Martha Kostyra, who died in 2007 at age 93. "She was the picture of good health and well-being. She was a good example of growing old and being well," she says. To promote graceful aging, the center offers a holistic approach to wellness, pairing traditional medical care with alternative therapies like tai chi, yoga, and stress reduction. Stewart worked with Pei Partnership Architects to customize every detail, from the soft lighting and soothing colors to the easily accessible chairs and hydraulic-lift exam tables.
Today, the center gets more than 10,000 annual patient visits, making it one of the largest outpatient facilities in the country for older adults. "It's a good prototype for other hospitals around the United States," Stewart says. In late 2014, with a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the center piloted a program to bring hospital-quality medical care to a new place for seniors: their homes. People with some conditions that would usually require a hospital stay, like pneumonia or a serious skin infection, can have doctors, nurses, and medical equipment come to their homes while they recover. Audrey Chun, MD, the center's medical director, says older patients are more likely to get better faster if they're comfortable in a familiar place. In 2015, the center began expanding the program to more people.
Chun says Stewart has also been an important supporter of the center's work to educate doctors and other medical professionals on how to provide the best care for older people. "It's important because not every doctor will specialize in geriatrics, but most everyone will be taking care of an older adult at some point," she says.
Stewart values the top-notch care delivered by Mount Sinai's staff. "The doctors are so superior and are such wonderful people and work so hard at their practice to make this an ongoing and growing success."
What would her mother think of the center if she could see it today? "She'd be thrilled," Stewart says. "She was a very friendly person and she would love to be there, commiserating and talking with the other patients."