The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

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“Through the facilities assessment, we learned the now outdated safety standards used in Los Gatos Meadows’ construction almost 50 years ago pose a high risk today,” said Kevin Gerber, President and CEO of Covia.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.”

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!

Planning to make end of year donations to support the causes you care about? This year’s tax law changes will make a difference in the way those charitable gifts are treated, with an implication for your 2018 taxes and for the year to come. As you do make your final donations of the year, it’s also a good time to consider your plans for next year’s charitable giving.

While the primary motivation for most charitable gifts is a desire to make a difference, not simply tax breaks, good financial planning leaves more for charitable gifts. Donors are paying attention to the impact of the new tax law – and making plans to maximize the difference their gifts can make.  The Covia Foundation offered several workshops this year on maximizing your charitable contribution and offers the following strategies you can use for your own planning purposes.

The new tax law that went into effect for 2018 nearly doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. That means fewer Americans will itemize deductions on their tax returns – including charitable gifts.

Using tax-smart giving strategies can allow some donors to give more and enable others to grow their initial contributions tax-free until funds are disbursed to designated organizations:

APPRECIATED STOCK:

One strategy is to donate appreciated assets such as stocks or real estate directly to a charity. Donors receive the fair-market value of the asset at the time of the gift as a charitable deduction – without incurring the capital gains tax they would face if selling an appreciated asset outright. The charity then liquidates the asset and puts the funds to work to make a difference.

IRA CHARITABLE ROLLOVER:

Taxpayers over the age of 70 ½ can plan a Qualified Charitable Distribution from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). Diverting some or all of the required minimum distribution from an IRA can provide financial benefits. While the distribution doesn’t count as a charitable deduction, it also doesn’t add to the donor’s adjusted gross income – which can reduce income taxes (and possibly Medicare premiums). Up to $100,000 annually may be requested as a Qualified Charitable Distribution.

DONOR ADVISED FUNDS:

Donors can make several years’ worth of charitable gifts in cash or appreciated assets to a donor-advised fund. This strategy can provide an immediate tax deduction on the amount contributed and allows the donor to direct gifts from the fund each year to the charities he or she supports.

Charities are able to continue their work in good part because of the support of people who care about making a difference. Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to make an even bigger impact with your charitable dollars. Generosity combined with knowledge can make all the difference in the world.

If you would like to attend a future charitable giving forum, please contact Michelle Haines, Covia Foundation Development Associate, at mhaines@covia.org. And to join our effort to provide life-changing support for seniors, please visit our secure online donation page.

 

Every Christmas residents at San Francisco Towers enjoy a beautiful Christmas Circus Wagon, on display in the Lounge during December. This is the story of how SFT residents brought the wagon into existence.

In Bill and Martha Steen’s Christmas tree ornament collection was a circus wagon ornament. Bill decided it would be a special treat to build such a wagon as a Christmas decoration for The Towers. Bill approached Dick Brain with his idea, along with a sketch for a table to implement his project. Dick made a mockup showing Bill how he proposed fabricating the table and its accessories. With Bill’s approval of the mockup Dick proceeded with precise drawings and wiring diagrams for the wagon. Fabrication started in September 2005, with the wagon completed and installed in the main Lounge just before Thanksgiving.

The wagon was fabricated from a 8’ x 4’ plywood sheet, metal folding legs and dimensional lumber and moldings. Finishing items were the wheels, finials, side curtains, acrylic widows and electrical service equipment and wiring. The miniature amusement park rides were purchased from Gump’s. The wheels were based on those shown in an old photograph of a cart. The wheels and finials were made by a specialty cabinet shop in Windsor.

Dick Brain and Roger Cutler fabricated the wagon and painted the table. Marcia Cutler painted the columns, wheels, finials and moldings. In addition, she and Roger glued small human figures to their poker chip bases and then painted the chips to match the table. Hope Streeter made the side curtains, which are held to the table molding with Velcro strips.

Custom storage boxes for the figures, trees, vehicles, buildings, etc. were fabricated from cardboard paper boxes. Storage containers for the rides and the various wagon parts were fabricated from plywood and dimension lumber, with casters for transport. It was mandatory that all these rolling storage containers had to fit through regular and elevator doors in the building. Dick prepared assembly and dis-assembly instructions for setting up and removal of the wagon.

The Christmas Circus Wagon display includes amusement park rides with moving parts, houses and other buildings, vehicles, people, trees, animals, a moving train, lights and music. You can see a video of the Christmas Circus Wagon on San Francisco Towers Facebook page.

The wagon was ready for viewing Christmas 2005, and has since been enjoyed every holiday season by the residents, families and other visitors to The Towers. The 2018 Circus Wagon is dedicated to Dick Brain, a tribute to his many years of dedicated service to so many San Francisco Towers activities. 

This essay by Webster House resident Jim Lyons originally appeared in the December 2018 Webster House Newsletter.

It is money grubbing time again. Buy, buy, buy, and then buy more. For those of us who stress about what to buy, discombobulation can smash our frames of mind. Mettle is challenged. Yet it need not be that way. Here are some ways of giving that are guaranteed to please and leave your purse or wallet untouched. Rank and randy commercialism be damned! Embrace the wonders of giving simply. Curiously they are worth more than money could ever buy. They are fun for you too.

First. Make two phone calls per day to friends or family that you have not spoken with for a long time. This is personal and profound. It is not a mass-produced card. The personal touch is rarely practiced in this era of electronic babble. You too will be enveloped in the warmth and surprise of the call. If you don’t know the person’s phone number, it is easy to find and free. Ask me and I’ll teach you how to do it.

Second. Write three short hand-written notes daily for 30 days. The message need not be long. Just one sentence or phrase – just like on the $2 cards. Example: “I appreciate hearing your cheerful voice when I call. Thanks.” It’s the personal touch that does the trick. Such touches are scarce these days. A written note takes a minute or so to write. By the end of 30 days you will have brought some warmth into the lives of nearly 100 people! That’s a quiet antidote to the current climate where insults, blame saying, arrogance, and egotism seem to flourish unchallenged.

Third. Here’s some gifts for close friends and family. Write a simple story about an earlier experience, perhaps shared or perhaps not. Each of our apartments is full of things with stories. I’ve given some in my family treasured seasonal decorations along with stories about what our family was like when we used the decoration. I described some of the traditions and the circumstances of that earlier time. Scooter wrote a story about her family and the world during the year before each of her kids was born. Whew! What a treasure.

Think simple giving. That may just be our way to put the human spirit back into the holidays and to penetrate those thick bastions of religious traditions and beliefs.

This is a season when many faiths celebrate the good in us all. A leader of the Hasidic Jews observed: “Everyday life is hallowed, and each of us is responsible for the bit of existence that has been entrusted to our care.” Let’s keep the traditions of giving centered on people.

This essay by Chaplain Jacquie Robb was originally published in the Spring Lake Village newsletter.

We talk a lot about community here at Spring Lake Village. The conversations are usually about joining the community. . .what it’s like to eat with others in the dining room, how to navigate the programs and events. It’s only later, after residents have been here a while, that I hear about the heart of community rather than the logistics.

Most communities form around an intention, from the ancient spiritual communities of many faith traditions – the monasteries of Christians and Buddhists, the Hindu ashrams – to the 60s communes and the modern eco-villages. It got me wondering if we hold a common intention here at Spring Lake Village.

When I ask people why they moved here, what I hear most often is “so I won’t be a burden to my children,” or “so there will be people to take care of me.” Seldom do I hear anyone say that their primary motive for moving here is to be part of a community. It seems almost an unintended consequence of their motives.

And yet, here we are – all 450+ residents and over 250 staff – living and working together. How might we refine our intention in living here to develop more of a sense of community, of “being in it together?”

This takes time. We don’t know how this community works on us until we’ve lived here for a while. Many of those who evacuated last year returned with a renewed sense of community. Did this fade over time for you or did it grow? Did you make new friends, deepen the friendships you had?

Maybe we don’t know until we’ve lived here for a while how we will grow into community. I see so many residents find a renewed purpose, rejoicing that being retired doesn’t mean retiring; living into a growing understanding that a sense of true community, like true friendship, means thinking about what’s good for “us” and not just me.

Maybe we can’t know until we’ve lived here for a while the joys and challenges and ultimately the great freedom inherent in interdependence.

Many of us have helped our children’s schools, our neighborhoods or towns before coming here, but it takes a while to learn how we can serve this type of community. Planning movies and concerts, joining a committee, visiting those who need a bit of company are all manifestations of being of service. But there’s also an inner attitude that I hear expressed by so many of us – one of gratitude. Gratitude for being cared for by staff, gratitude for feeling safely held through the many transitions we face at this age. Gratitude for the company we share, on this sacred journey through life. I suggest that gratitude expressed and shared is in itself an incredible and enriching service for those offering and those receiving the thanks.

This month, as we celebrate all we are thankful for, we can open ourselves even further to the gratitude of those who make up this community. The axiom “it takes a village” becomes ever clearer as we settle into living here. And the longer we’re here, it seems our community’s intention might best be expressed by our gratitude and service.