The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

“I’ve always been interested in the environment,” says Canterbury Woods resident Nancy Frost. “I was fortunate enough to spend my summers in a redwood forest. And how can you not be interested in the environment when you get to do that.”

For more than 30 years, Frost worked for the Government, first in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then as one of the first employees of the Environmental Protection Agency when it was established in 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day.

After returning to California, Frost continued to work on environmental issues – a passion that did not stop when she moved to Canterbury Woods, a Covia Community. For the five years since she has lived here, Frost has provided resources and training to help her community “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.”

“When I moved here, there was a small program, which still exists, but there wasn’t an overall educational program for people about what items goes where,” Frost explains. “I was also the chair of the then Housekeeping Committee, now called the Environmental Services Committee. It’s our staff who pick up all of our trash and recyclables. And I could see from looking at what we were doing that there was a lot of confusion.”

Staff aren’t allowed to sort through recycle bins. “Somebody got injured by reaching in and there was a broken glass, so for the safety of our staff, they are not asked to do any sorting. So it’s really up to us as the individual residents,” Frost said.

Frost provides information to help residents know which items are recyclable and which are not. “I have many hats here, and one of them is called the Trash Lady. I will get calls and I will get notes: ‘where should I put this?’” She explains that the information on recycling changes regularly. “Since I’ve been here, we are under the third, going on fourth reiteration of what can be recycled because of what’s going on worldwide.”

Earth Day gives Frost a chance to provide more focused information for the community with a display that is placed in Canterbury Woods’ main hall for three days, giving people information and updates on what can be put in recycling as well as other steps they can take to reduce their environmental footprint.

As she prepares for this year’s display, “One of the things I have spread out here in my usually neat living room is a whole bunch of papers,” she says. “I’m going to try to show from the tree to the process down the road. And paper can only be recycled four to six times, and after that, it’s trash. But that last reiteration – the paper napkins, the Kleenex – those are things that are designed to absorb moisture, and it’s why we can’t recycle it, even if it’s just water. They have had their last life. So when I prepare this, I try to educate folks on the Why so that they can make a decision when something new pops up. It’s not just, ‘This is what you do.’”

Her educational programs have made an impact. “As a community here in Pacific Grove, we are probably the top-notch community recycler. There are so many retirement homes and senior living homes, so we’re grouped in with many other communities and commercial establishments. We had a presentation last year that showed we’re the one that probably does the most and the best.”

Mary Lou Kelpe, Canterbury Woods’ Wellness Coordinator, has worked with Frost on Earth Day and other events that encourage the community to be mindful of how they can make a difference. Kelpe reports that, along with the Earth Day displays, “Nancy also went with our residents twice last year to tour our new recycling/waste management facility. We learned a lot about all the new recycling rules as a community.” Their trip is featured in the photo above.

Recycling is only one part of the community’s environmental efforts. Residents reuse items by selling them in the Canterbury Woods store. And Frost encourages reducing the amount of waste products by offering suggestions, such as using handkerchiefs instead of facial tissues and reusable water bottles instead of plastic. In the dining hall, residents can choose to get dinner to go in reusable, microwavable containers. “You can heat your food in it, you can refrigerate it if you’re not going to eat it right away, and you return and it gets washed and it gets used again,” Frost says.

Even if people aren’t interested from an environmental standpoint, Frost notes that these small changes add up to significant financial savings. “It’s cheaper to put something in the recycle bin than it is in the trash bin. If you use less of things, it’s cheaper than if you’re getting a new thing each time. For example, instead of taking the little white bags to take something home from the dining hall each day, how about a reusable bag that you bring? There are little things that each person can do that make a difference.”

One thing Frost tries to emphasize each year is that “It matters.” “Earth Day is one day a year when we can remind everybody that really every day is Earth Day.” Due in part to Frost’s annual Earth Day displays, “I think people think about what to do with things that they no longer want or use, along with the daily trash. I think there’s a pretty heightened awareness. And I think also it’s something that people think about much more than they thought about five years ago. But even then, they were more conscious than the average community. I’m proud of people wanting to make a difference.”

Interview with/Entrevista con Lizette Suarez, Program Manager/Coordinadora de Programa Well Connected Español

To learn more about Well Connected Español, visit our webpage at https://covia.org/services/well-connected/bien-conectado/.

Para obtener más información sobre Well Connected Español, visite nuestra página web en https://covia.org/services/well-connected/bien-conectado/.

For those who don’t know, what is Well Connected?

Well Connected is a phone and online program offering activities, education, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes and support groups to older adults accessible from the comfort of home.

Para los que no saben, ¿Qué es Well Connected?
Well Connected es un programa telefónico y en línea que ofrece actividades, educación, conversación amistosa y una variedad de clases y grupos de apoyo para adultos mayores accesibles desde la comodidad de su hogar.
   
Has Well Connected had groups or classes in Spanish or any other languages before?
Yes, Well Connected has offered classes in Spanish and Russian over the years, but without designated staff who spoke those languages it was hard to gain traction. With designated Well Connected Español staff we are better equipped to connect Spanish speaking older adults with programs they can enjoy.
¿Ha tenido Well Connected grupos o clases en español o en otros idiomas antes?
Sí, Well Connected ha ofrecido clases en Español y en Ruso a lo largo de los años pero sin personal designado que hablaba esos idiomas era difícil ganar terreno. Con personal designado para Well Connected Español, estamos mejor equipados para conectar a adultos mayores que hablan español con programas que puedan disfrutar.
   
Why did Well Connected decide to offer a program in Spanish?
There has been expressed need from service providers and from within the Spanish-speaking community. With the support of Navigage and Metta Fund, Well Connected Español was born. We hope to be able to offer Well Connected in more languages in the future.
¿Por qué Well Connected decidió ofrecer un programa en español?
Se había expresado la necesidad de los proveedores de servicios y de la comunidad latina. Con el apoyo de Navigage y Metta Fund, nació Well Connected Español. Esperamos poder ofrecer Well Connected en más idiomas en el futuro.
   

How did you hear about this project, and why did you decide to get involved?

I heard of this posting via Indeed.com, from the moment I read the listing I knew it was a project I wanted to be a part of. I grew up very close to my grandparents and older adults all throughout my childhood. As an adult, that did not change much. I am amazed by their wisdom, their life knowledge and experiences. The more I am exposed to them the more I have access to information I wouldn’t  learn otherwise because it is stored and unique to them and their personal stories.

¿Cómo se enteró de este proyecto y por qué decidió involucrarse?
Me enteré de esta publicación a través de Indeed.com, desde el momento en que leí el listado, sabía que era un proyecto del que quería formar parte. Crecí muy cerca de mis abuelos y adultos mayores a lo largo de mi infancia. Ahora como adulta eso no a cambiado mucho, estoy asombrada por su sabiduría, su conocimiento de la vida y sus experiencias. Cuanto más me expongo a ellos, más acceso tengo información que no aprendería de otra manera porque está almacenada y es única para ellos y sus historias personales.
   

Have you talked to any Latino elders about this program? What do they think?

Yes, I began promotion of the program both locally in the Bay Area and through virtual trainings to reach Latino elders across the country. I have done presentations at senior centers and at senior housing facilities. The biggest challenge is getting people to understand this new way of thinking about community. Once people understand the concept, the feedback has been positive, with and lots of excitement.

¿Has hablado con algún anciano latino sobre este programa? ¿Qué piensan ellos?
Sí, comencé a promover el programa tanto a nivel local en el Área de la Bahía como a través de capacitaciones virtuales para alcanzar personas mayores latinas en todo el país. He hecho presentaciones en centros para personas mayores y en instalaciones de vivienda para personas mayores. El mayor desafío es lograr que las personas entiendan esta nueva forma de visualizar comunidad. Una vez que las personas entienden el concepto, la retroalimentación ha sido positiva, y con mucha emoción.
   

What are you going to offer for this first session?

For the first session we will be offering the following activities;
Art Appreciation
Introduction to Crocheting
Armchair Travel Series; Peru, Mexico & Italy
Living a Healthy Life
Am I co-dependent?
Holiday series; Mother’s day & Memorial Day Weekend
ESL
Gratitud Call
Lotería (Mexican Bingo)
State of Well Connected (Community Forum)

¿Qué vas a ofrecer para esta primera sesión?
Para la primera sesión estaremos ofreciendo las siguientes actividades;
Apreciación de Arte
Introducción al Tejido Basico
Serie de Viajes Desde el Sillon serie;
Peru, Mexico e Italia
Como Vivir Una Vida Saludable
¿Sere yo Co-dependiente?
Dias Feriados;
Día de la Madres
Día Conmemorativo
ESL
Gratitud
Lotería
Estado de Well Connected Español (Foro Comunitario)
   

How can people sign up to join?

They can register the following ways for the program;
Phone: (877) 400-5867
E-mail: coviaconnections@covia.org
Snail Mail: 881 Turk Street | San Francisco, CA 94102
WhatsApp: (415) 602-9518

¿Cómo pueden las personas registrarse para unirse?
Pueden registrar de las siguientes formas para el Programa;
Teléfono: (877) 400-5867
E-mail: coviaconnections@covia.org
Correo Postal: 881 Turk Street | San Francisco, CA 94102
WhatsApp: (415) 602-9518
   

What if people want to volunteer? How can people get involved?

People can get involved as a facilitator for activities, as a member of the advisory council to advise program manager or as a volunteer helping promote and or send birthday and thank you cards out. To get involved, you can call me, Lizette,  at (877) 400-5867 or email me at lsuarez@covia.org.

¿Qué pasa si la gente quiere ser voluntario? ¿Cómo pueden involucrarse las personas?
Las personas pueden participar como facilitador de actividades, como miembro del Comité Asesor para asesorar coordinador de programa o como voluntario para ayudar a promocionar y / o enviar tarjetas de cumpleaños y de agradecimiento.
Para participar, puede llamarme, Lizette, al (877) 400-5867 o envíe un e-mail a lsuarez@covia.org.
   

What else do you want people to know about Well Connected Español?

Well Connected Espanol is a program by and for Latino elders. This program is only possible with the participation and volunteerism of the community. Together, we put together a great selection of classes and facilitators to make the experience very enjoyable for participants. We hope people participate, consider volunteering, and help us spread the word that Well Connected Español is launching and is here to stay!

¿Qué más quieres que la gente sepa sobre Well Connected Español?
Well Connected Espanol es un programa de y para personas mayores Latinas. Este programa solo es posible con la participación y voluntariado de la comunidad. Juntos, organizamos una gran selección de clases y facilitadores para que la experiencia sea muy agradable para los participantes. ¡Esperamos que la gente participe, considere ser voluntario y nos ayude a difundir la noticia de que Well Connected Español se está lanzando y está aquí para quedarse!

 

The Well Connected and Well Connected Español Spring Session begin Monday, April 8, 2019.

La sesión de primavera de Well Connected y Well Connected Español comienza el lunes 8 de abril de 2019.

Los Gatos Meadows announced today that, after reviewing the findings of a rigorous facilities assessment, it will begin the process of closing the senior living community, concluding that continuing operations in their present form is too great a safety risk for residents and employees.

“Providing quality care and a safe and pleasant community is our core commitment to our residents,” said Chris Ichien, Executive Director of Los Gatos Meadows. “Because of risk factors uncovered during a recent independent facilities assessment of Los Gatos Meadows – particularly the increased likelihood of a fire disaster that we cannot mitigate – we have concluded that we must begin the closure process immediately.”

In 2018, Los Gatos Meadows’ parent company, Covia, retained an independent firm to assess Los Gatos Meadows’ facilities and what would be required to keep the buildings safe and operational. Covia believed the findings would help them determine what improvements would be required to ensure both the safety of residents and employees and that residents could continue receiving excellent services and care.

“Through the facilities assessment, we learned the now outdated safety standards used in Los Gatos Meadows’ construction almost 50 years ago pose a high risk today,” said Kevin Gerber, President and CEO of Covia. “The risks this assessment uncovered, while not imminent, when taken all together are so significant that we concluded that we must close Los Gatos Meadows.”

Of the numerous categories reviewed during the assessment, more than a quarter were found to pose a significant risk, including some that materially impact the operations of the community, and even more that pose a high risk of injury to residents. Those of most concern involve fire safety, and particularly the elevated risk of fire starting within existing structures, accompanied by compromised accessibility for fire response services.

The closure date is not yet final, but Covia has tentatively proposed the complete closure to occur September 30, 2019. California law requires a minimum 120-day notice for the closure of any senior living property. Covia is working on plans that would extend that timeframe to give its residents additional time to secure new accommodations with comparable services and care.

“We know this decision will have significant impacts on our residents, their families, our employees and our community,” Ichien said. “We will do everything in our power to ensure the transition is thoughtful and as smooth as possible.”

Covia has pledged to work with each resident and their family on an individual basis to develop a transition plan tailored to the resident’s needs. Covia is committed to finding an alternative residence within another Covia community or with a community that can provide residents with comparable services and care and is working to address the financial impact to residents caused by the move.

Covia is also committed to supporting employees to ensure their transition from Los Gatos Meadows is as easy as possible, including providing severance packages and job search assistance. Covia will continue to operate El Sombroso Oaks in Los Gatos.

“We care for each and every one of our residents and employees and understand the concern and anxiety this news may cause them,” Ichien said. “Please be assured that we are doing, and will do, everything we can to take care of them during this transition as our commitment to them has not wavered.”

As a nonprofit organization with values rooted in service, Covia is committed to supporting the communities we serve. We find new ways to help people, especially those at risk, live well and age well, anywhere they call home.

To fulfill this commitment, we raise more than $2 million annually through the Covia Foundation and pledge 2% of Covia Communities’ annual gross revenue towards our charitable activities. Most importantly, we strive to live out our values in everything we do. We couldn’t be more proud of the work our staff, our residents, our donors, and our organization do all year round. 

Our Calendars are Always Full

We have a multitude of programs and services dedicated to supporting our residents, our communities, and seniors who live in and around the areas we serve. This year’s Social Accountability Report looks at a year in the life, so you can see a sampling of the ways we help seniors every day. The report highlights the impact our work is having in the communities we serve. 

Click here to download a copy of Covia’s 2018 Social Accountability Report.

Originally published in Engage Winter 2019

In December 2018, Sandra Crowder, Environmental Services Tech, was named Los Gatos Meadows Employee of the Quarter.

The Covia community shared on Facebook that “Sandra’s positivity and attention to detail inspires all who cross her path. She holds herself to very high standards and strives to provide excellence to residents, team members, and guests.”

For her part, Sandra says, “One of my goals at work is to make people smile and feel cared for which is easy here.” She adds, “Also I have a wonderful supervisor and I feel appreciated by my boss and the management.”

But which came first: Sandra’s high standards, or the appreciation of the management?

“What we find across all industries across all countries is that people want the same thing,” says Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights, a senior care company of Great Place to Work. “And it comes down to trust.”

Great Place to Work has been studying the elements of trust in the workplace for over 30 years. They have found five key elements: Respect, Credibility, Fairness, Camaraderie, and Pride. Together, these comprise the Trust Index – a measure that is tied to increased organizational performance.  

According to Kung, the first three measures – Respect (I feel respected by my employer), Credibility (I can believe what my employer is telling me), and Fairness (I feel that decisions and policies are fair) establish a relationship built in trust. “What really elevates it even more is Camaraderie, which is with my coworkers, and then Pride in what I do,” she says.

For the first time this year, Great Place to Work has offered a list of Best Places to Work in Aging Services.  Covia, a LeadingAge California member based in Walnut Creek, placed 29th overall.

The Trust Index has been shown to have a causal effect on improving the workplace. “You improve the Trust Index score, and your performance as an organization improves. In public companies, the best companies outperform the stock market index by a factor of 200 to 300 percent,” says Kung. “In our industry, higher Trust Index score, lower employee turnover. Higher Trust Index score, happier residents and families. Higher Trust Index score, better occupancy.”

Of the five dimensions of Trust, Covia rated highest in Pride and lowest in Fairness – a typical result for the Aging Services industry, according to Kung.

“Our industry compared to other industries really stands out for that reason – pride and purpose – and it’s the organizations that highlight and inculcate that best that seem to do best,” says Kung. “And of course they also are high in respect, credibility, fairness, camaraderie.”

For fairness, perception is key, and a lot of the perception is based on day to day activities, such as scheduling. “Scheduling is really important for this industry. If you’re not getting what you requested and you see someone else and you don’t know why, then it’s perceived as not fair.” One way to improve the perception is to make sure employees understand why something is the way it is.

Another common area of perceived unfairness is compensation. “Our industry does not do a good job communicating how compensation is determined,” notes Kung. “And compensation includes of course the pay itself, but also benefits, and having some sort of share in success.”

For Covia, which had been evaluating employee satisfaction through other surveys since 2010, the choice to partner with Great Place to Work made sense.

“Quite honestly, it’s a great recruiting tool,” says Prab Brinton, Covia’s Vice President of Human Resources. “The minute that you say, ‘We’re a great place to work,’ the candidate instinctively paints a picture of what that looks like for them.”

“I think the designation is also a good reminder for our current workforce,” she adds. “It reminds them: ‘Oh, wait a minute. Actually, you know what? We are a pretty good place to work because here’s what all of my peers are saying. Here are all the great things my employer offers me.’ It’s a great reminder, just from a retention perspective.”

“The other thing that was really good about this tool is that it’s also being able to tie our employee feedback to the resident experience,” says Brinton. With other surveys, “We got lots of great information, but how do you tie it into the resident experience? With Great Place to Work, we were able to give them that information and they were able to correlate that together for us.”

And of course, the Great Place to Work survey gave Covia information on where it can grow and improve, both overall as an organization as well as at a community or departmental level.

One area where Brinton feels Covia has room to improve is in building stronger relationships with employees, rather than spending the bulk of the time in bureaucratic tasks. “We have systems to handle day to day tasks. These systems help us move employee conversations from ‘did you fill out your benefits paperwork’ to ‘let’s talk about what would be the best benefit choice for you and your family.’ Or if you know that there’s a rising star within your community – the conversation turns to ‘Hey what are your plans? I know you’re getting ready to graduate from school, what are you planning to do? Have you considered this kind of position with us?’ We should be turning it more into that kind of relationship. We spend a lot of time building those relationships with our residents. We need to do the same with our employees.”

In her one-on-one meetings with her direct report, Brinton focuses on four areas: the status of current projects; any roadblocks or concerns; current successes; and ongoing career development needs and desires. “I do think that a lot of times in many organizations, HR falls into the role of ‘managing’ employees through their tenure. The true role of HR should be to create an environment that employees can come in and do a great job every day and feel pride in the job that they are doing. We’re also here hopefully to educate in some way, to help employees along their career path.”

And if the original career path doesn’t work, there may be another way to use a talented employee’s skills and talents. Gina Secchi, Marketing Coordinator at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, started her career at Covia as the Catering Manager at San Francisco Towers. “I loved the event planning and the San Francisco Towers residents and felt mentored by [Director of Dining Services] Larry Brooks,” says Secchi. “Unfortunately, the commute was too much and I wasn’t going to be able to stay. When I mentioned this to Larry, he was instrumental in me coming to St. Paul’s Towers. He knew my strengths and suggested to [Executive Director] Melody Mitchell and [HR Director] Donna Tendler that I work at St. Paul’s as the marketing coordinator and they all helped me to do so. Larry made me feel very respected because he said, ‘I wish you could stay here but I would rather have you work for Covia than have the company lose you.’” Secchi is now considering getting a degree in Marketing. “I know that Covia has a program that assists with going back to school and I am looking into participating in this program.”

“I would say to other aging services companies, figure out ways to make your employees feel connected to the organization, to the management teams, to the other employees. I think that goes a long way,” says Brinton. “If you don’t feel connected to your spouse or partner, you say, ‘OK, I need to find greener pastures.’ It’s the same thing on employment. If employees don’t feel connected then they’ll ask themselves, ‘Why should I keep coming here? You don’t value anything that I bring to you.’ It’s really being able to harness the connection between employer and employee.”

“Covia believes that every single employee is essential and vital to our team. Our management staff works hard to communicate this and to be sure everyone is treated that way,” says Ron Schaefer, Chief Operating Officer. “Covia is also a great place to work because of the important work we do: supporting older people to live well and age well.”

“There are always the usual things: you have pay, you have benefits,” says Brinton. “I think more importantly are the people you work with, believing in the mission of the organization, and being surrounded by a bunch of people who are driven by that same thing. I think that makes Covia a great place to work.”

Brinton adds, “I think something that makes us unique over numerous other industries outside of senior living is the employees get to feel like they have an extended family outside of your work family. You have these great seniors or elderly people that you are interacting with on a day to day basis. One, they’re very grateful that you’re there helping them. But two, just think about all the stories you get and the added knowledge or learning. You just feel connected.”

This connection is clearly felt by Sandra Crowder at Los Gatos Meadows. “I truly give my all to Covia and the residents,” she says. “I also receive a lot of joy from the residents in return.”

When Mary Linde, Executive Director of St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, plans development programs for her senior leadership team, “I try to do things that aren’t just about reading and discussing a book,’” she says. In January that led her to bring her team to the LeadingAge California offices in Sacramento.

“It’s typically nurses and licensed administrators who go to the conferences,” Linde observes. “But as I look at my leadership, I see so much talent, and yet they don’t get out of the community and network, partly because they don’t know all the opportunities that exist, and also because they don’t realize they can. As part of our leadership training, I really wanted to connect our team to LeadingAge so that they knew, first of all, the available resources and; secondly, the networking pathways open to them; and finally, that Covia supports them serving outside of our community.”

Linde arranged for her team to travel to LeadingAge California’s Sacramento offices. “When we got there, the LeadingAge staff didn’t just show up,” she says. “They had gift bags for all of us. They had an agenda. They had a folder with handouts for us. They were so excited.”

LeadingAge California President and CEO Jeannee Parker Martin agrees. “Their morning visit gave us an opportunity to learn more about the needs of each team member from a provider perspective, and also an opportunity for them to learn more about the myriad policy, committee, educational and resource opportunities from LeadingAge California staff. It was exciting to have the full team take a day away to meet with us, and we look forward to engaging with them on committees and other activities ahead.”

Sheba Jenness, St. Paul’s Director of Human Resources, is one of the team with a deeper investment in the work of LeadingAge after offering to serve on a committee dedicated to HR issues. Jenness has worked in Aging Services for 10 years, but before going to the LeadingAge offices, she admits she knew practically nothing about the organization. “It was very abstract,” she says. “I knew it existed. I didn’t know how much they advocate on so many different levels. They’re really invested in trying to find different ways to make sure that California is serving older people in a caring, conscientious way.” As part of the HR Group, Jenness will be working with a team doing a wage comparison survey this summer.

Linde is very active in LeadingAge California, serving as an EMERGE Leadership Development Program coach as well as participating as a member of two committees: the Service Excellence Committee and the Member Engagement Committee. As part of the Member Engagement Committee, Linde is encouraging people to participate in LeadingAge’s Age On, Rage On campaign, created to demonstrate to legislators how many people value services for older adults. “It’s not just for us as staff,” she explains. “It’s to get our residents involved so we really bring the issues of aging services to the forefront to our legislators, to our colleagues – everywhere – so that older people and their issues are heard.”

The experience of visiting the LeadingAge office changed Jenness’ perception of the organization. “I thought LeadingAge was a big machine, and it’s not. It’s a lot more hands-on and one-on-one than I expected.”

Linde concurs. “This isn’t some big corporate office collecting dues and not doing anything. These are people who are really committed to aging services and are working on our behalf every day so that we can get continuing education credits and get regulatory information broken down to us in language we understand quickly. And they’re also really lobbying on our behalf for dollars and for services for seniors.”

The invitation to visit is open to other senior communities, and Linde hopes they will take advantage. “I really believe that proverb that says, ‘Iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen one another.’ I believe we need to be truly rubbing shoulders to sharpen each other.”

Parker Martin says, “Mary Linde showed great leadership cultivation by bringing her full management team to LeadingAge California’s office in Sacramento. It offered not only insights into LeadingAge California, but team-building away from their community. We hope to host other communities in the near future, and look forward to deeper engagement at all levels of the organization. LeadingAge California is your association, and we are here to serve in whatever way possible.”

Introduction to the Creative Aging Symposium
Presented by Katie Wade, Associate Director of Social Call and Well Connected

This is our second year hosting the Creative Aging Symposium, Power to Change. This online symposium is a place for us to gather around a really profound notion: that aging is a journey ripe with opportunities for creative exploration. This may seem radical. It’s contrary to society’s story that aging is all about loss, but this view of aging as creative growth has been an emerging thread for quite some time, and I’m so appreciative that it’s now reaching our collective conscious. I’ve never been so excited to become an older adult myself.

I recently read this quote in The Creative Age by Gene Cohen, whose work laid the foundation for the current movement that we call creative aging. “When we talk about creativity, I’m not referring simply to the paint on canvas type of artistic creativity, nor do I mean those visionary thinkers whose imaginative ideas and inventions have shaped or shaken civilizations. Creativity is built into our species, innate in every one of us, whether we are plumbers, professors, short order cooks or investment bankers. It is ours, whether we are career oriented or home centered. It is the flame that heats the human spirit and kindles our desires for inner growth and self-expression. Our creativity may emerge in many different ways, from the realm of art, science, politics, to the pursuit of an advanced college degree, a new hobby, or a public spirited community activism.”

So today, for the symposium, I invite you to think about your own creativity and how it relates to growing older. What is it about being older that puts you in a unique position for creative growth?

Click here to read the full transcript of the 2019 Creative Aging Symposium.

In January, Webster House welcomed Mehrad “Rod” Moshiri as its new executive director. He’s spent his first month getting to know the community, both staff and residents.

“The first thing that I think I noticed about Webster House is that people care,” he says. “From the line staff to upper management, everybody cares about the residents who live here, which is great. Everything else can be learned. People caring is something you either have it or you don’t.”

After emigrating to the Bay Area from Iran in 1988 at the age of 15, Rod attended San Jose State University, getting a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy. His first job was as an Occupational Therapist in a Skilled Nursing Facility in Alameda. After that, he moved to San Francisco where he worked first as a rehabilitation manager, then became a case manager and director of case management while at the same time earning his MBA. Meanwhile, he learned of an opportunity to enter an Administrator in Training program: “I applied, I got in, and got my Masters and became an Administrator at the same time.” After getting his Administrator’s license and MBA, Rod managed Skilled Nursing Facilities for about 16 years.

Because Rod’s prior experience has mostly been as the administrator of places like Webster House Health Center, one of his first goals is to get more exposure to the Independent Living side of the community. In his short time here so far, he’s visited the dining committee, the financial study group, and presented at his first Fireside Chat – an all-community update that happens monthly – as well as getting to know individual residents.

“We have the greatest residents,” he says. “They’re very welcoming. They’re very casual. They’re more than happy to converse with people that are interested and letting them know why they’re here,” such as the fact that they can walk half a block to get to downtown Palo Alto.

His first impression of Webster House Health Center, which provides rehabilitation services and skilled nursing, is that “for the size of the health center, it’s a smooth running operation. And that’s typically not achievable unless you have competent people in place. Room for improvement? Always. But looking at it from a global perspective, it’s a smooth-running operation.”

“Because I have the background and experience in the health center side, I would confidently tell people that the care they will receive here is by far much better than 85-90 percent of the skilled nursing facilities in the area,” he says.

Rod was drawn to the position because Webster House and Covia have a good reputation as an employer in the area of senior living. The Assistant Executive Director of St. Paul’s Towers, Maggie Youssef, and Rod had worked together previously and “she spoke very highly of the company,” Rod says. “I can tell you that everyone I have met so far has been great. And I do get emails saying, ‘Everything OK? Do you need anything?’ Knowing that I’m newer to the position, knowing that I may need something, they’re taking the first step to reach out to me before I reach out to them, which is wonderful.”

Being the Executive Director of a Life Plan Community is not an easy role to fill. “You need to be able to wear multiple hats. You need to be able to think on your feet. You need to be able to put out fires right away. And you need to be able to remember that you’re dealing with people’s lives,” Rod says. “It is a tough business. Different personalities, different challenges, different situations. That’s what’s tough about it.”

At the same time, “You can make a difference in people’s lives and well-being,” Rod notes. “What I like about it is that there are no two days that are the same. It never gets boring.”

Especially with so many interesting people around. “I love and welcome conversations. I live by the fact that I have an open-door policy. I invite people to come in and say hi to me in my office. I’m enjoying every day that I’m here and I’m learning a lot.”

Canterbury Woods residents are making use of the campus facilities to back their traditional holiday recipes: cookies, truffles, and more. One of our residents has shared her personal creation: a recipe for raspberry-jalapeño pepper jelly.

Raspberry-Jalapeño Pepper Jelly
1 4-oz can diced jalapeño peppers, drained
1 medium-large red bell pepper, diced
1 ½ – 2 cups fresh raspberries
1 ½ cups white vinegar
6 cups sugar
1 packet Certo fruit pectin (there are two in each box)
Red food coloring (optional)

Place in blender the first three ingredients and blend until there are no large particles, adding a little of the vinegar if it’s too thick to blend well. Place in large pan with the rest of the vinegar and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring throughout. Add the sugar; bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the Certo and a little red food coloring, if desired (I do). Spoon the foam from the top. Pour into 7 or 8 half-pint jars, that have been sterilized by boiling. Cover with the sterilized sealing rings and tightly screw on the tops. You will hear them popping within an hour to make sure they are sealed. Don’t move for several hours. I serve with crackers and cream cheese.

Enjoy!