The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

In early January, St. Paul’s Towers honored Eric Hubert with a Lifetime Achievement Award for 50 years of service. Both as a former staff member as well as a long-time resident, Hubert’s impact on the Towers’ can be felt to this day.

Originally from Orange, Texas, Hubert was working as an administrator at an Episcopal Church in Oklahoma when he first learned about St. Paul’s Towers. During a visit to Los Angeles to introduce then-Governor Ronald Reagan on behalf of the National Association of Church Business Administrators, Hubert met Father Darby Betts. Betts, who co-founded Covia (then called the Episcopal Homes Foundation), invited Hubert up to Oakland to see the retirement community that he was building, St. Paul’s Towers.

After introducing Hubert to Oakland and his new community, Betts invited Hubert to become the administrator for St. Paul’s Towers as well as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the parish next door –starting the very next day! Hubert said “of course,” a decision that would bring him permanently to Oakland, the city he still calls home.

During his first few months on the job, Hubert lived with the Betts family in their home in Piedmont while he searched for an apartment. It was the start of a lifelong friendship with Betts. “We became brothers,” Hubert notes. “Working with Dr. Betts was the greatest experience.”

As the administrator for St. Paul’s Towers, Hubert helped create the groundwork for what flourishes to this day. He hired the first 100 employees across all five departments, interviewing each to make sure that they were a good fit for the community and would fully support the residents. During his time as administrator, Hubert also spoke about St. Paul’s Towers to raise awareness for the community and planned programming.

The programs that Hubert is proudest of are the music concerts held every Monday night. As with all of the programming that he brought to the community, he worked hard to make sure that he was bringing in experienced professionals to share their craft. Now, as a resident, he enjoys the same quality of music that he helped usher into the community at its start.

As a founding member of St. Paul’s Towers, Hubert not only interviewed staff interested in working in the community, but met with prospective residents as well. The aspect that Hubert always stressed to people considering the community is that St. Paul’s Towers is a place where “residents don’t lose their independence.” In his work as an administrator, working on staffing, programming, and more, Hubert made sure that the community was a space where residents could live with the same level of independence as they had experienced living in their own homes.  

After 23 years as an administrator for the St. Paul’s parish and the St. Paul’s Towers community, Hubert retired from the position. Looking back, Hubert says, “I loved every moment of those 23 years.” In honor of all of his hard work and all he had done for the community, as a retirement gift, St. Paul’s Towers raised the money to send him on a month long trip to Europe to say thank you. He spent most of his trip in London though he did sneak over to Paris, where he had previously spent time while in the army as Secretary to the Signal Officer.

The trip brought back memories of this previous time in Europe, including when he sold Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein a pack of cigarettes for $30 at a lecture. “I never went out without cigarettes, soap, and a bar of chocolate,” Hubert says. Though he never smoked, he would sell the cigarettes so he could buy tickets to the opera.  

Hubert’s love of art and culture extended into his impact on the wider Bay Area community. He served as a trustee for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California as well as supporting the symphony and other cultural institutions. His work across these organizations is invaluable and something that he looks back on fondly. In both his time at St. Paul’s Towers and the wider community, Hubert notes, “anything that I could get involved in, I was. Seeing where I could give my talents and leadership.”

After retiring, Hubert returned to St. Paul’s Towers as a resident because he “wanted to be in the best place.” “We tried to make St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s Towers exemplary” he says, and he believes “the same philosophy and policies hold today.” His hard work and dedication are clear within the community, from the enduring programming to Hubert’s favorite part of the community, “the caring staff.”

The first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day, a holiday devoted to raising awareness of women’s heart health. The holiday, which falls on February 7th this year, is put on by the American Heart Association as a reminder of the threat of heart disease and stroke. It corresponds with February as National Heart Health Month.  

In honor of the holiday, we’re sharing some simple tips that can make a difference for heart health as well as highlighting how Spring Lake Village is celebrating on February 7th.

Heart Health Tips

Improving heart health may sound like a daunting task but there are a number of easy to adopt changes that can have a positive impact on the heart.

One way to increase heart health and decrease risk of cardiovascular disease is to seek out social connections. Loneliness and isolation can directly contribute to cardiovascular disease so it’s important to regularly connect with family and friends. This can be as easy as going out to coffee with a good friend or connecting over the phone with someone you care about.

Programs like Well Connected and Social Call provide great options to stay connected. Connect with people who share a mutual interest through Well Connected’s variety of weekly sessions or find a new acquaintance to connect with in person or over the phone through Social Call. These programs have the added benefit that they can help forge new connections all while being easily accessed from your home.

Stress has a direct impact on heart health, which means it is important to find the ways to manage stress that work best for you. This could be engaging in calming activities like journaling and meditation or talking through your stress with a mental health professional or spiritual leader. Staying active can be another great way to manage stress as well as directly contributing to heart health in and of itself.

On top of its abilities to mitigate stress, exercise and movement can also strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system. The key is finding the type of movement that brings you joy. Running, taking walks, or participating in a sport are the most commonly acknowledged ways to move, but other hobbies like gardening or birdwatching also keep you active. Think about what hobbies bring you joy that also keep your body active and make the choice to incorporate them more often into your daily life.  

On top of moving, managing your stress, and staying connected, being in touch with your body and knowing the signs of a heart attack are crucial to staying healthy. Consult with your doctor so that you are aware of your own heart health and any chronic conditions that may affect your heart. It’s also important to review the signs of a heart attack and keep in mind that warning signs can differ between men and women. 

Keeping these tips in mind can be the start to prioritizing heart health as well as possibly leading to a new friend or learning about an exciting new hobby.

National Wear Red Day at Spring Lake Village

Spring Lake Village “promotes heart healthy living on an ongoing basis by promoting healthy eating, managing stress, exercising” and more, notes Director of Wellness Diane Waltz. National Wear Red Day provides the perfect opportunity to put special emphasis on how this is done. In honor of the holiday, many Friday classes and events incorporate heart health topics and residents and staff are encouraged to wear red around the community.

During morning exercise classes on February 7th, residents reflected on heart healthy lifestyle choices and heart attack symptoms as part of their brain fitness challenge. They also spelled National Wear Red Day backwards and discussed how knowing the warning signs of a heart attack is helpful not only for self-identification but also so they can recognize the signs in others and directly administer help.

Beyond promoting heart health and raising awareness, the holiday hits close to home for some residents and staff who choose to participate to honor family and friends’ struggles with heart related conditions.

Human Resources Director Dee Ann Hyatt wears red for her great niece Alexandria who “was born in 2013 with a rare and complex congenital heart defect. Her doctors said that if she was born just ten years ago, she probably wouldn’t be here today.” Alexandria has gone through open heart surgery as well as multiple procedures but today she is a vibrant, active, and smart 1st grader who “is so full of life.” Hyatt participates in National Wear Red Day for her niece and families who have received a devastating diagnosis with the hope that they know “that they are not alone.”

No matter the reason to celebrate, National Wear Red Day creates a visual reminder that heart health is important and that by making simple, informed decisions, we can make a difference each day. Check out the Spring Lake Village Facebook page for more examples of heart healthy activities and visit the American Heart Association website to learn more about heart health, tips and tricks, and National Wear Red Day.

* Heart health tips pulled from Casey Westbrook’s Spring Lake Village Newsletter article “Wellness Matters: Heart Health Month”

Jonathan and Jackie have only lived together for a few months, but they both say it already feels like they’ve known each other forever. They found each other through Home Match, a program of Covia Community Services. Jonathan describes Home Match as “a ‘dating service’ that helps you find the perfect roommate.” For both Jonathan and Jackie, finding Home Match was a life saver.

Jonathan, a social worker with the city of San Francisco, couldn’t find affordable rentals in San Francisco and was commuting daily from Hercules. “I was searching for a place to live. I tried Craigslist, Apartments.com, asking through friends, with no success,” he says. “It was either Home Match or I had to leave San Francisco.”

Jackie, a retired hotel worker, was thinking of giving up her San Francisco apartment where she’d lived for years in order to save some money. “Then I thought I LOVE this neighborhood,” she says. “Why don’t I just see about a roommate.”

Home Match was the key for both Jonathan and Jackie. Home Match helps homeowners with extra rooms connect with home seekers who need an affordable place to live, creating a win-win situation. Home Match staff interview prospective homeowners and home seekers to check backgrounds and ensure compatibility, then connect people by researching personal preferences, house types, and interests. In some cases, accommodation can be provided in exchange for services, such as driving to the grocery store or lending a hand around the house. With this kind of arrangement, senior homeowners can often continue to be successful in their own home, while lodgers have access to affordable housing so they can remain in the area and continue their good work.

“With Home Match, along comes Jonathan, and he’s been a blessing,” says Jackie. “Living with him has opened the door back to life. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Jonathan and Jackie both appreciated the personal nature of the application and matching process. “I felt that I was being treated with dignity throughout the process,” Jonathan notes. “I always felt like I could trust the Home Match team.”

“I would absolutely recommend Home Match to anyone in my position. I love it because it brings people together, even those who you wouldn’t think would connect,” Jonathan says.

*This article was previously published in the Fall 2019 edition of Community Matters

On January 29th, Covia Community Services is celebrating creative aging with the Creative Aging Symposium. The symposium, which can be attended online or by conference call, celebrates how creativity shapes our sense of self and guides us to more purposeful living.

Both individual participants and senior communities nationwide are welcome to register for the 3rd Annual Creative Aging Symposium, occurring on January 29th from 9am to 12:15pm PST. The focus for this year’s symposium is on how creativity, a resource available to us all, builds resiliency. Through the wisdom of a talented group of presenters with a variety of creative backgrounds, the symposium will uncover the potential for imagination and provide tips for daily practices of self-expression.

Social Call Director Katie Wade, who created and spearheads the symposium, notes “Older adults want to explore new social connections, deepen their sense of self, try new things, be healthy, be of value to their community, and be seen as valuable. Creative aging concepts and programming provide a compelling solution to many of these priorities.”

Creativity is often associated with art, but one of the goals of the symposium is to demonstrate how creativity encompasses far more, such as trying a new approach when solving a problem to organizing space more efficiently. The Creative Aging Symposium seeks to help participants understand how they use creativity every day, even if they wouldn’t initially describe themselves as creative.

The concept of creative aging was originally heralded by Dr. Gene Cohen, who asserted the potential that creativity brings to aging. Inspired by Dr. Cohen’s work, Wade created the Creative Aging Symposium as a way to teach and inform more people about the positive effects of creativity and our immense capacity for creative growth, especially as we age.  

Wade particularly values the concept of ‘little c’ creativity as described by Dr. Gene Cohen: “Little ‘c’ creativity is represented by creative acts that can change the path ahead of us and bring something new into existence – perhaps how we do a daily task, approach a problem, or relate to our family.”

The 2020 symposium presenters will explore creativity in its numerous forms, including little ‘c’ creativity, and how it can help build resiliency as we age. These presenters include geriatrician, writer, and educator Louise Aronson; storyteller and co-founder of MiHistoria.net Albertina Zarazúa Padilla; dancer and choreographer Nancy Cranbourne; artist and activist Edythe Boone; and eco-friendly style icon Debra Rapoport. The wrap-up experience will be led by author and community organizer David “Lucky” Goff.

Speaking about this year’s symposium, Wade notes that she is “looking forward to hearing how attendees will be inspired to explore creativity a bit more in their daily lives or use a creative practice to get through difficult life circumstances.”

The Creative Aging Symposium is part of Covia Community Services’ dedication to creative aging as a way to reframe the narrative around aging through exploration, programming, and events. This takes a number of forms within Covia, from the Creative Aging Symposium to Ruth’s Table programming and Social Call’s integration of creative learning methods like The Hummingbird Project’s Joyful Moments cards.    

On February 4th, Leading Age California is hosting their Golden Gate Regional Event all about creative aging at Ruth’s Table. At Make Something Together: The Power of Creative Programming Ruth’s Table Director Jessica McCracken and Social Call Director Katie Wade will lead a conversation for professionals in the Aging Services field on creative aging and how it can be utilized to increase social connection and change the narrative around aging. More information about the event and registration can be accessed here.

If you are interested in learning more about creative aging and its benefits, please join us on January 29th for the Creative Aging Symposium and at Ruth’s Table on February 4th for the Leading Age California event.

Register here for the Creative Aging Symposium.

Register here for The Power of Creative Programming.

The holidays are in full swing at Covia! Each community and program have their unique way of celebrating the season, from fun decorations and holiday parties to annual traditions and special events.

Webster House & Webster House Health Center

At Webster House Health Center, the lobby is always decked out in a particular theme for the holiday season. Last year, it was Grinchmas and this year the lobby is filled with Santa’s Workshop and gingerbread buildings. A large tree with swooping red ribbons and stocked with elegantly wrapped presents finishes off the festive display.

Elsewhere in the center, residents and staff have been practicing their Christmas carols, preparing for the holiday concerts that will take place on the different floors. Webster House chaplain, Lily Godsoe notes “this is a long standing tradition at the Health Center and the residents in particular are excited about it.”

Webster House Independent Living has been adding in new traditions along with established favorites. A Christmas tree and menorah dedication led by the chaplain was a new way to ring in the season, with residents gathering in the lobby to admire the elegant display that features an angel topper and poinsettia accents.

Over the December months, the tree has been looking over a growing pile of toys, collected for the San Francisco 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto. December is a giving time at Webster House from the toy drive to the annual bake sale put on by Webster House, Webster House Health Center, and Lytton Gardens. Treats are baked by residents and staff as well as donated by local restaurants. Each year, the bake sale proceeds are donated to a local charity. This year’s charity is Pets in Need, a local rescue that also brings dogs to the Webster House Health Center and Lytton Garden communities to meet with the residents.

Resident Service Coordinators

Covia Resident Service Coordinators connect residents to vital services at affordable communities throughout the Bay Area and Southern California. Traditions at many of these communities center on potlucks and parties where residents can socialize and share in the festive season.  RSC Jennifer Wright at Redwood Shores will be celebrating with a Black and White themed party. She notes “we want to continue the tradition of doing a theme party as it gives residents a chance to dress up.”

Sunny View West in Cupertino will join in a potluck with the neighboring Sunny View Manor community where residents and their families can get together and celebrate the season. They’ll sing hymns together and participate in festive activities on top of sharing a delicious meal.

San Francisco Towers

San Francisco Towers’ lobby has become a central point of the holiday celebrations with the beloved tradition of the Christmas Circus Wagon and this year, the addition of the holiday house. 

The Christmas Circus Wagon was inspired by a resident’s ornament and the hard work of a couple of residents that brought the ornament to life but full size. The wagon hosts miniature amusement park rides, buildings, a moving train, and miniature people and trees enjoying the scene. It’s a welcome sight in the SFT lobby and if you’d like more information on its construction and inspiration, please read our blog post from last year dedicated to its history.

The holiday house is a new addition to the decorations this year. A homemade dollhouse, lovingly created for Olivia Guthrie by her father, the holiday house is decorated for the season. Its doors stand open so that visitors can look through each room of the house and even watch Santa and his reindeer up on the rooftop.

Restored and refinished, the furniture and a majority of the miniatures are from the period the dollhouse was created: 1938. The house resembles Colonials in the suburbs of Chicago, even including an Illinois flagstone around the front. It features festive decorations inside and out as the holiday house residents celebrate right alongside the residents of San Francisco Towers.

Olivia Guthrie hopes that the house will bring back “pleasant memories of holidays past.”

Support Services

The holidays are the sweetest time of year at Support Services. The annual cookie exchange was a hit with treats ranging from brownies and eggnog cookies to lemon cheesecake bars and chocolate crinkles. Participants got to take home a full Tupperware of the delicious sweets to share with family and friends.

The culmination of holiday celebrations at Support Services is the potluck, white elephant gift exchange, and ugly Christmas sweater contest. A full spread of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts are enjoyed by staff decked out in their most eccentric holiday attire. The celebration culminates with the white elephant gift exchange. This year saw incredible participation with 37 wrapped gifts that ranged from blankets and candles to an elegant bread slicer, board games, and chocolates. Everyone went home with a smile on their face and a new trinket or treat.

St. Paul’s Towers

At St. Paul’s Towers, a full array of holiday décor, programs, and services make the community feel particularly festive. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, visiting clergy from different denominations of Christianity perform a weekly Advent service full of hymns and celebrations of the Advent season.

Resident and staff led Christmas tree decorating gives everyone the chance to deck the halls, while later in the month, cookie decorating celebrates the sweeter side of the season.

During the eight nights of Chanukah, St. Paul’s Towers chaplain, Rabbi Meredith Cahn, and residents hold a nightly Chanukiah lighting, sing, share memories and blessings, and tell stories to celebrate the holiday. On one evening, they will share “latkes and other treats to remember the food.”

St. Paul’s Tower’s Program Coordinator, Connie Yuen, says, “We always have a great energy at SPT, but during the holidays, the feeling is extra special. From the way we greet one another to the exchange of hugs and high fives, there is a lot of love in the building.”

During this jolly time of year, full of festivities and traditions, all of us at Covia would like to wish you and yours a bright and merry holiday season.   

The Thanksgiving season at Covia is a time for great food, from the Support Services Nuthin’ But Sides potluck to the annual Thanksgiving meals put on by communities and Senior Resources. Two of these Thanksgiving meals, the Senior Resources San Francisco Thanksgiving dinner and the Annual Oak Center Towers’ Thanksgiving Luncheon, give a great peek into what it’s like to celebrate the holiday season at Covia.

SF Senior Resources:

On November 20th, Senior Resources San Francisco hosted its fifth annual Thanksgiving dinner – part of its monthly Senior Lunch program, usually held on the fourth Wednesday of the month in the Parish Hall of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. With a jazz trio playing in the background, nearly 75 seniors gathered at long tables for a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Sandra, who is a regular at the senior lunch, says the service she receives is what makes this meal special. “All those other places you have to stand in line, out in the cold,” she says. After having wrist surgery, she finds carrying trays difficult. “Here, you’re indoors, you’re sitting at a table like we are, there’s nice music playing in the background, and you just sit and they serve you, instead of you carrying a big heavy tray.”

Vivian, who has been attending for the past three years, had a different experience: “At first I had trouble because I’m used to potlucks with my friends, so I wanted to help. I realized I’m supposed to sit down, so that was the hardest part.”

Amy Brokering, Director of Senior Resources in San Francisco, says that the service was a deliberate choice when the program was first started six years ago to make it feel more special for those who gather. Since its inception, the lunch has grown from fewer than 20 seniors to, at its largest, around 80 participants – with volunteers, close to 100 people. “It’s a community,” she says. “They support each other.”

Volunteer Pam agrees. As she serves in her fourth Thanksgiving for the program, she says, “The memories of all the differences we were able to produce is really beautiful. We have a core group of about five or six of us and we work really well together. We have a lot of joy in being here for these people and knowing it’s a community. It just makes us feel good.”

Three additional volunteers from Lindquist CPA joined the team to help serve the Thanksgiving meal. A vendor partner with Covia, Lindquist has been helping with the Thanksgiving senior lunch for the past three years. As a surprise at the end of the meal, the team from Lindquist presented Amy Brokering with a check for the Covia Foundation for $2,000 – the largest gift this program has received.

Oak Center Towers:

Also on November 20th, Oak Center Towers, a Covia Affordable community, hosted its 18th Annual Thanksgiving Lunch. Held in the Oak Center Towers multipurpose room, the lunch invites residents to enjoy a special holiday meal in their community. 

“It’s a much loved and appreciated, long-standing tradition that residents seem to really look forward to,” says Aliona Gibson, who joined Covia this year as Activities Coordinator at Oak Center Towers. “There was buzz for weeks before the date.”

Over 100 Oak Center Towers residents and guests took part in the annual lunch, arriving early to socialize with their family and friends before the food was served. The room was a pleasant hubbub of conversation as the group shared time together along with the Thanksgiving meal.

The multipurpose room at Oak Center Towers was decorated for the occasion with fall colors, flowers, and even featured a display with the community’s initials spelled out using water bottles. A tree with residents’ thankful wishes fashioned out of paper leaves adorned one wall, a happy reminder of the nature of the season.

Oak Center Towers’ staff and volunteers from Covia Support Services worked together to plate and serve the meal, which included holiday staples like turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese and green beans as well as fried rice and steamed vegetables. For dessert, there was a choice of apple pie or ambrosia salad and each resident was able to toast the season with their own glass of sparkling cider.

“It was a pleasure and fun to work alongside the Covia family to create such a wonderful experience. I felt the love and genuine care, concern and effort put forth towards making the event memorable,” Gibson noted. “I could not have asked for a better inaugural Thanksgiving at OCT.”

Over the past year, residents at Oak Center Towers have been fostering their creativity through art classes and art programs. Aliona Gibson, Activities Coordinator at Oak Center Towers, has been introducing residents to a new art project every month in addition to supporting the community’s connection with the Art with Elders program.

Art with Elders at Oak Center Towers

Art with Elders provides weekly art classes led by professional art instructors to over 450 residents in communities around the Bay Area. Their classes focus on teaching art skills such as composition and color as well as fostering community. Participants are invited to submit their artwork for the annual exhibit that showcases their hard work to the public around the Bay Area.

This year, artwork created by residents at Oak Center Towers for the Art with Elders program is featured in the 27th Annual Art with Elders Exhibit, currently on display at the Gerald Simon Auditorium at Laguna Honda Hospital through November 18th. Aliona Gibson and Oak Center Towers residents attended the exhibit’s Opening Celebration on October 27th where, Gibson notes, residents were “very proud and excited about their work being on display.”

One resident’s art was even selected to be printed onto greeting cards that could be purchased at the event. Gibson purchased one of these cards, saying that “it was invaluable to me to have such a beautiful and professional reproduction of the resident’s work.”

Beyond their work at Oak Center Towers, Art with Elders also provides classes at Lytton Gardens in Palo Alto, and Executive Director Mark Campbell and Instructor-Exhibits Manager Darcie O’Brien spoke as part of Covia’s 2019 Creative Aging Symposium, which celebrates the importance of creativity in creating a sense of self and living with purpose. The Creative Aging Symposium will return on January 29th, 2020 to explore more aspects of creative aging featuring speakers with backgrounds in eco-friendly fashion, choreography, and medicine. 

Monthly Art Projects

In addition to the Art with Elders program, Gibson has been introducing residents at Oak Center Towers to monthly art projects that allow them to try out different mediums and materials. Residents have created everything from tie-dye t-shirts and terrariums to painted flower pots and tissue flowers.

One popular event even had an edible component where residents created rainbow fruit skewers with strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupes, pineapple, green grapes, and blueberries. Gibson notes that the event was particularly popular because residents “got to take them home and some residents ate while creating.” 

Beyond the monthly art projects, there is also a weekly coloring activity where a small group of residents gather to color with gel pens, markers, and colored pencils.

Oak Center Towers’ diverse population means that not all of the residents share the same language, which can make craft projects and teaching difficult. Gibson says, “There is usually one person who speaks English who will relay what I am saying but mostly they go by pictures. I always bring examples of the craft we are doing, sometimes a prototype and sometimes pictures from the internet.” 

Between the monthly art projects, regular coloring group, and Art with Elders program, Oak Center Towers has created a number of beautiful pieces that have been displayed around the community on top of the art accepted into the Art with Elders’ exhibit.

The Art with Elders Annual Exhibit is open until November 18th at the Gerald Simon Auditorium at Laguna Honda Hospital. After November 18th, the exhibit will move to the Rincon Center in Downtown San Francisco through January 18th, 2020. Artwork from the Art with Elders exhibit is also available on their website.  

*Image of Oak Center Towers group courtesy of Art with Elders

Happy National Estate Planning Awareness Week! Estate planning is an often overlooked but important part of maintaining financial wellness. The financial aspects of estate planning include assessing your personal situation, creating a will and possibly a trust, planning for disposition of accounts (like life insurance or retirement accounts), naming a power of attorney, gift planning, and much more. It’s important to regularly review your plan and keep it updated so that it relates to your current life situation.

In honor of this week, we’re sharing some gift giving tips from the Covia Foundation that directly relate to estate planning. Check out these tips, consult your advisors, and remember to regularly review your personal estate plan to make sure it is accurate and up to date.

Make a Gift Through Your Will

When people think about estate planning, writing a will is what often comes to mind. A will is an important tool to make sure your wishes are carried out after your death – including gifts to your favorite charitable organizations.

One of the most common gifts in a will is a gift of a specific dollar amount. Another common approach is to leave a percentage of the balance of your estate that is left after specific gifts are made to family members (this is generally called a residuary gift). Every gift, no matter how small or large, can make a difference.

A will can be easily amended with language (referred to as a codicil) to include a gift to a charitable organization.

Individual Retirement Account Gifts

If you leave your Individual Retirement Account to a child or loved one, you also leave them with the obligation to pay taxes on the money that is distributed from the IRA. You, too, must pay taxes on the money you are required to withdraw for your IRA each year—but recent tax policy changes mean you can make charitable gifts today with those funds and they won’t increase your taxable income.

Once you are over the age of 70.5, you are required to make minimum distributions from your IRA. Instead of taking the funds directly, you can direct your IRA trustee instead to make a payment to a charity (or charities) directly from your IRA account. These qualified charitable distributions (up to the $100,000 maximum per year) are not added to your gross income, so they are not taxable to you.

Even if you do not itemize deductions on your 1040 personal income tax return, you’ll come out ahead making charitable gifts this way. Just be sure you complete these qualified charitable donations from your IRA before the end of the calendar year.

Beneficiary Designations

You can leave a gift to charity from an IRA, 401(k), or other qualified retirement plan using a ‘beneficiary designation.’ Generally, you fill out a simple form with your plan administrator naming the charitable organization as a beneficiary of a death benefit payable under the retirement plan.

The designated portion will be paid directly to the organization, not to your estate, and is not designated by a will. Paying these benefits directly to charity means that neither the estate nor any beneficiary of the estate are subject to income tax attributable to the retirement plan.

Charitable Gift Annuity: The Gift that Gives Back

What if you want to make a charitable gift in your will but don’t know how much you might be able to commit? A Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) can be a tax-smart way to benefit both you and your community. This gift plan allows you to make a charitable gift today that provides you with regular fixed income. After your death, this gift goes to the cause you care about. Because the payment rate is fixed based on your age, your income will never change and a portion of your payment could be tax free. (As an example, the rate for someone aged 81 is 7.5%)

A Charitable Gift Annuity offers other tax planning benefits. The gift annuity provides you an immediate income tax deduction in the year it is established and you can bypass capital gains tax if you fund the gift with appreciated stocks. Plus, you get the joy of planning your legacy today. With the Covia Foundation, you can choose to have your gift used where it is most needed, to support your retirement community, or to help a program you care about.

More Information

It is always best to consult with your legal, tax, and/or financial advisors before making any significant change to your will or estate plan. If you are interested in learning more about estate planning, have any questions, or are considering a gift to the Covia Foundation, please contact Katharine Miller, Covia Foundation Executive Director, at 925-956-7414 or kmiller@covia.org.

Founded on the mission of “increasing access to creative opportunities for older adults and adults with disabilities and providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for creative expression and cross generational dialogue,” Ruth’s Table, a Covia Community Service, has been serving the San Francisco community for 10 years—a  milestone they will be celebrating on November 14th with their R10 birthday party.

An important part of Ruth’s Table’s work includes partnering with like-minded organizations to expand its creative offerings. A recent partnership with Reimagine has sparked new programming as well as three events open to the public this October.

Reimagine hosts Reimagine End of Life, a weeklong slate of events that discuss death and dying through the lens of art and creativity. Events include everything from art installations and theater pieces to creative workshops and talks. Reimagine’s goal is to make end of life discussions easier by transforming them into celebrations of life through the use of art and creativity. This year’s Reimagine SF includes over two hundred events taking place in San Francisco between October 24th and November 3rd.

Ruth’s Table partnered with Reimagine in 2018 to host Curious Maps of Impossible Places, a life mapping workshop. This year the partnership is expanding with three new events: On Passing On: Poetry to Ease the Final Passage, on Friday, October 25th, Mortality in Motion on Saturday, October 26th, and Spirit Boat: A Makers Event on Tuesday, October 29th.

As Jessica McCracken, Director of Ruth’s Table, notes “I think it is very important to normalize conversations around end of life issues. It’s a way of celebrating life really. When working with an older adult population we deal with end of life issues more often and I think it’s important as a community of caregivers to explore those issues. I also know that we are working with a population that has the perspective and wisdom to really lead the conversation. Creative programming creates an amazing platform to have meaningful conversations.”

Events for this year’s partnership center on exploring end of life through multiple art forms. On Passing On: Poetry to Ease the Final Passage introduces participants to jisei, Japanese death poems, and then invites participants to write their own poem. The event will feature poet Bob Holman, folklorist Steve Zeitlin, and President of the Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation, Phyllis Zimmer. 

Led by artist Jennifer Ewing, Spirit Boats: A Makers Event, explores boats as a symbol of passage, especially in conveyance beyond death, through the creation of spirit boats. Recycled materials, wood, paper, feathers, twine, wire, and more will be provided to participants.

Intergenerational movement company Dance Generators will lead Morality in Motion, exploring how an embodied experience of mortality illuminates its reality in a new way. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes as the event will move between doing and discussion.

Everyone is invited to attend any of the festival events, no previous art experience required. Residents of Bethany Center will participate alongside community members in these engaging creative sessions.

McCracken hopes that “attendees from the community have a positive experience coming into our creative space. When people visit Ruth’s Table they often don’t realize they are entering an older adult residential community. What they notice is the vibrancy, the bright colors, and how alive the space is. We want to create an environment where growing older is inspiring.”

To learn more about On Passing On, Spirit Boats, and Mortality in Motion visit the Ruth’s Table Facebook page. For more on Reimagine End of Life, visit the Reimagine website. For more on Ruth’s Table and its 10th anniversary celebration, visit the Ruth’s Table website at ruthstable.org.