Covia, Well Connected, and Well Connected Español will host the fourth annual Creative Aging Symposium on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 9:00-11:30 PST. This virtual event invites older adults to explore and celebrate identity through a creative aging lens, with keynote speakers that include a CEO, professors of psychology and religious studies, storytellers, multi-media artists, and more.
The Creative Aging Symposium counters the commonly held belief that creativity is only the province of the young. Co-organizer Katie Wade says, “Older age presents a unique time for creative growth, should we choose to explore ourselves and community through the lens of imagination, adaptation, and innovation.”
This year, for the first time, the symposium will be presented in English and in Spanish simultaneously. Lizette Suarez, Program Director for Well Connected Español, says, “We are incredibly excited to widen the reach of this event by organizing it 100% in Spanish. Aging is a universal topic and we are thrilled to introduce the Creative Aging concept to the Spanish speaking community.” Closed captions will also be available, and audio descriptions of visual content will be provided for those with vision loss.
Keynote speakers for the 2021 Creative Aging Symposium include EngAGE founder Tim Carpenter, multidisciplinary artists Gabri Christa and Mabel Valdiviezo, photographer S. Renee Jones, psychologists Dr. Angélica Ojeda García and Dr. Ricardo Carillo, and poet Gregory Pond. Topics include how identity is shaped by community, how one’s sense of self evolves over a lifetime, and how people make meaning out of life’s joys, tragedies, and everyday moments.
Though many of the speakers explore creativity in their jobs and hobbies, the event planners assure attendees that they do not need to identify as creative or artistic. “Through creative demonstrations, interactive experiences, and inspiring voices, you will discover new insights into the distinct gifts you bring to the world.”
The Creative Aging Symposium is hosted by the Covia Community Services programs Well Connected Español and Well Connected, and older adults active in our programs.
For more information, including speakers and schedule, visit www.creativeagingsymposium.org or call 877-797-7299.
Monterey County homeowner Doris Beckman was struggling to keep her home – until she started home-sharing. “It’s made such a difference in my life not to have to worry about paying my bills or losing my home,” Beckman says. “I am finally able to do the needed maintenance on my home and dig my way out of the debt from my husband’s illness.”
Now, Beckman is carrying forward this personal experience into a new role – leading the expansion of Covia’s home-sharing program, Home Match, into the community she loves. “There are so many people living on the edge, just one paycheck away from losing everything,” says Beckman, who is leading the Home Match Monterey program as the Program Manager. “Home-sharing done right can relieve isolation, stress, depression, and anxiety.”
Launching in October 2020, Home Match Monterey will support multiple communities on the Monterey Peninsula, including Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Sand City, and Seaside.
The seed was first planted in late 2018 when Home Match was invited to present to the Housing Options Meaningful to Elders (HOME) Collaborative. Karen Coppock, Senior Program Director of Home Match, saw this as an opportunity to deepen Covia’s local roots and help tackle the affordable housing crisis, identified by the Monterey County’s Area Agency on Aging as a top priority.
“Covia has over 55 years of history in the community through Canterbury Woods as well as Market Day and the Well Connected programs, so we are excited to expand our support to include affordable housing,” notes Coppock.
As exemplified by Beckman’s own story, the issue of affordable housing has become increasingly prevalent in Monterey County for both homeowners and renters. With many Bay Area residents moving out of San Francisco and into Monterey, housing costs are increasing and exacerbating the issue for those who work on the Monterey Peninsula but cannot afford to live there. The Monterey Bay Economic Partnership has identified that 85% of Monterey Peninsula workers commute and that over a quarter drive at least 50 miles a day. These issues are aggravated by COVID-19, which has increased financial instability and social isolation while causing increased interest in aging-in-place.
“Home Match provides an excellent solution to these issues by matching local people with extra rooms in their homes with people seeking affordable housing,” explains Coppock. “Added rent from the match allows homeowners or primary tenants to stay longer in their homes while providing an affordable housing solution to those who would not otherwise be able to afford to live in their community.”
There has already been real local demand for Home Match’s services in Monterey, with 33 people interested in offering rooms and 37 people looking for shared homes. In return, Home Match will offer its time-proven, community-centered approach that includes a person-centered application and customizable agreement process. Home Match also has safety guidelines in place during COVID-19, operates in both English and Spanish, and serves everyone regardless of their immigration status.
Reflecting on this next step in her home-sharing journey, Beckman can’t wait to get started. “I know the impact Home Match can make in the community and I am so excited to be a part of it,” she says.
Do you have an available room in your home or are you looking for affordable housing in Monterey County? If so, please visit our website to find more information and submit an inquiry form. You can also reach out to Doris Beckman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 831-760-5529. We look forward to hearing from you!
Home Match’s expansion into Monterey would not have been possible without support from funders, endorsers, and supporters, including the Monterey County’s Department of Social Services Aging and Adult Services, and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation – host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In addition, funding was provided in part by a grant from the Margaret L. Musser Field of Interest fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County. Thank you to everyone who helped make Home Match Monterey possible:
- Monterey County’s Department of Social Services Aging and Adult Services
- Funding was provided (or funded in part) by a grant from Margaret L. Musser Field of Interest fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County
- Monterey Peninsula Foundation, host of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
- Housing Options Meaningful for Elders (HOME) Collaborative
- Monterey Bay Economic Partnership
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Monterey County’s Community Voice for Aging
- Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council
- Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula
- UPS Store #459 in Monterey
Over a decade ago, long before COVID-19 would drastically alter our world, Covia developed a resource to promote social engagement among older adults and combat loneliness and social isolation. That program, Well Connected, is now a nationwide social connection and lifelong learning program that is free and open to all older adults — not just Covia residents or its affiliates.
“The program was initially designed for low-income, extremely isolated, frail older adults who needed more engagement,” says Tracy Powell, Covia’s Vice President of Community Services. “It was a lovely but small support system rooted in engagement and volunteerism,” she notes, initially offering 10 free one-hour classes per week. Over the last few years, the programming has grown “in sophistication and audience.” Participants, who currently come from 46 states, can now choose from over 80 classes and groups that are offered every single week. The programs vary from support groups to topical discussions to interactive courses, all available by phone or online.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Well Connected participation has skyrocketed. Prior to the social distancing and quarantining requirements brought about by the crisis, Well Connected had about 2,000 participants. Then, in the first two weeks of April alone, 200 new participants joined — a 10 percent increase in just two weeks after 10 years of operation. Since the onset of COVID-19, Well Connected has had a total of 685 new participants. Now staff are getting calls from other senior living operators interested in enrolling their residents.
“There has been a huge increase in terms of enrollment and interest,” Powell says. “There have been 50 to 75 organizations so far just through the end of May that have contacted us and asked if they can join and find out more about what’s involved in virtual programming.”
Social Call, another Covia Community Services program, matches individuals for one-on-one social connections. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, many of these friendly visits were conducted in person based on shared interests and geographic proximity. Now, Social Call happens entirely by phone, lifting the geographic limitations and significantly expanding the possibilities for connections based on interests and compatibility — especially since the program has seen a huge increase in volunteers as well as participants.
Another project that Covia has spearheaded in response to COVID-19 is “Enduring Inspiration,” a worldwide call for art made by older adults. The program was developed in partnership with Ruth’s Table, an arts center named in honor of the internationally-known artist Ruth Asawa that is a part of Covia’s Bethany Center affordable housing community in San Francisco.
Seniors around the world are encouraged to make any kind of art and send it in — a recipe, a collage, a painting, a drawing, or anything else that can be easily mailed — for a juried exhibit that will be held at the freestanding gallery space at Bethany Center once it is safe to do so. Covia is also developing art packets and embroidery kits to send out to seniors in their communities so they can create their own art.
“At the heart of it, this is all very central to our mission as an organization: building community wherever people are,” says Ron Schaefer, Covia’s Chief Operating Officer. “These programs help bring people together and create connections.”
*This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of Community Matters
As we shelter in place, many people are taking up new creative projects, everything from knitting to baking or even learning a new musical instrument. Ruth’s Table is celebrating the power of creativity to lift our spirits and bring us together with the Enduring Inspiration: Creativity at Home initiative.
Ruth’s Table, part of Covia’s Community Services, is an arts nonprofit committed to increasing access to creative opportunities for older adults and adults with disabilities located at Bethany Center Senior Housing, a Covia Affordable Community. Through the Enduring Inspiration initiative Ruth’s Table is encouraging individuals sheltering in place to express themselves through creative projects with the help of creative care kits, support from teaching artists, and virtual classes. The culmination of the project is the Enduring Inspiration exhibition, a gallery show that will feature submitted art pieces created during this time.
Ruth’s Table Director Jessica McCracken notes, “Knowing that people were going to have to stay at home for a long duration of time, our first thought was around the risks associated with social isolation. Ruth’s Table programming has proven that the arts are an incredible tool for bringing people together. Enduring Inspiration was designed to bring a sense of hope and offer a way to process the magnitude of this experience.”
One way that this has manifested is with creative care kits, which include art-making activities (paired with supplies) that participants can use at home. Ruth’s Table has partnered with Covia Creative Spark to create Creative Spark worksheets, which are fun prompts intended to spark inspiration. Worksheets vary greatly, from turning a provided squiggle into a drawing to curating a personal art collection. An example of the worksheets can be found here.
Beyond the Creative Spark worksheet kits, Ruth’s Table has also partnered with Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSW), which empowers underprivileged youth through sewing and quilting, to create an intergenerational quilt. Ruth’s Table and SJSA have created quilt making kits that guide recipients through creating a quilt block that will be incorporated into a full quilt. This quilt will be on display as part of the Enduring Inspiration exhibit. If you are interested in creating a quilt block as part of the project, please reach out to email@example.com.
Ruth’s Table is also supporting community creativity through individual or group phone calls as well as virtual classes. Group or individual support calls allow teaching artists to provide assistance and encouragement to those working on the creative care kits and Creative Spark worksheets. Virtual classes are also available for senior communities as a way to keep connected and engaged while we stay at home.
Set to take place later this year, the Enduring Inspiration exhibit is an invitation to us all to explore creative projects at home and share our work with others. Ruth’s Table is encouraging everyone to submit any creative projects of choice, from traditional art pieces like paintings and sculpture to other creative endeavors like recipes, musical pieces, and more.
Everyone and anyone is invited to submit their creative project for consideration and submissions are open now through August 1st. The submission process is easy and consists of a short write-up about the project, a photo of the project if applicable, and a short, 2 to 3 sentence bio. The full submission guidelines are available on Ruth’s Table’s website. To submit, please reach out to Ruth’s Table at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415.505.3269.
If you are working on a creative project during this time, also consider sharing photos and your process on social media using the hashtag #RTmakes. We’re excited to see what you create and how you are utilizing creativity to stay connected.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Covia’s Market Day has stepped in to provide fresh produce and staples to almost 1,600 seniors.
Market Day, a Covia Community Services program designed to offer pop-up produce markets in accessible locations such as senior communities, senior centers, and churches, made the difficult decision to temporarily close its events starting in mid-March in light of the risk they might present to seniors and volunteers alike. But the team is working behind the scenes to provide new, creative ways to get fresh produce to seniors without exposing them to risk of infection.
“Covia knows that our clients, residents, and neighbors are all dealing with a lot of challenges during this pandemic,” Market Day posted on its Facebook page. As a result, “During the month of April, Covia offered produce delivery for free to older adults and community members.”
In April, Covia employees and volunteers wearing masks delivered bags of produce to 1,593 seniors living in twelve locations that normally host Market Day, ranging in location from Santa Rosa in Sonoma County to Pomona in Southern California. Each delivery contained a variety of fresh produce, from blueberries to broccoli, pears to zucchini, along with a pound of rice.
“The gesture alone helped my spirits,” said a resident of Presidio Gate Apartments, a Covia Affordable Community in San Francisco. “The bananas and berries were most appreciated and the sweet potatoes were good mashed.”
“I can’t tell you how much the groceries will be appreciated by my residents,” said a staff person at Cottonwood Place in Fremont. “I’ve seen the need for food increasing. This is so generous of Covia and it is definitely needed…We will get through this all together.”
As for the Market Day team, “We can’t wait to celebrate all our volunteers when our Markets open again soon!”
Market Day is a program of Covia Community Services. Find more information about Market Day or make a donation to support this vital program here.
The Social Call program connects older adults with volunteers for one on one visits in person or over the phone. Due to social distancing and shelter in place orders, the program is holding all visits over the phone and has added a new card writing component where volunteers write cards that are sent to Covia Community Services participants, Covia communities, and other senior living communities. They’ve sent 4,100 cards so far. During this time, opening the mailbox to a personalized card can go a long way to brighten spirits and help someone who is isolated feel connected to the wider world.
Social Call is actively seeking volunteers to write cards. There has been a great turnout from existing Social Call volunteers who are also visiting with participants one on one over the phone, new volunteers who signed up specifically to write cards, and employees from throughout Covia.
Covia Foundation Development Associate Michelle Haines was excited to participate. Haines says “I love putting smiles on people’s faces. This is a challenging time for humanity, and it’s important that people know that we’re all in this together and that no one is alone. Lonely maybe, but definitely not alone.”
Volunteers are “giving someone a little visit and hug via mail” says Social Call Program Manager Amber Dean. The program has been providing volunteers with suggestions on how to reach out in meaningful ways from sharing what they are grateful for to discussing what they have been doing while sheltering in place. Haines suggests “Use as much sunshine and color as you possibly can! It may be the only ray of sunshine and color the recipient receives that particular day when they open your letter.”
The Social Call team has been receiving positive notes and messages from participants who have received a card. One participant reached out to the program with the message “I want to say thank you for the beautiful card I received… a lovely note expressing their concern for me and wishing me all the best. I truly, truly appreciate that so much, you have no idea.” Another recipient noted “I was really feeling down and then a card came in the mail and it meant so much. Printed so very nicely and it said warm hugs, that was so nice. I’m keeping this card. I would never part with something like that. It’s just wonderful. It really made my day, today is a better day.”
The card writing campaign also has a positive impact on the volunteers who are creating the cards. Haines notes that what she enjoys most about the project is “knowing that I made a difference in the life of a beautiful stranger and that the world is a better place for having done so. Love wins!” At a time when normal life has been transformed, the act of reaching out to make a personal connection has the possibility to positively impact those on both ends of the interaction.
Volunteers have even been expressing their creativity by making their own cards. Pieces submitted for the program have included homemade cards utilizing stamps, scrapbooking paper, and stickers. One volunteer even created a whole selection of cards utilizing different images of birds. Volunteering has become a family affair for some with kids creating drawings to be sent with the cards or turned into cards themselves. No matter what materials are on hand, they can be utilized to brighten a participant’s day.
The call for card writing volunteers is ongoing. If you are interested or would like to learn more, please email us at email@example.com. It is a simple and safe volunteering opportunity during this time that can make a difference for you and an isolated older adult.
Social distancing may mean that we can’t be physically close but there are still plenty of ways to connect with each other and the outside world while staying safe at home. Technology can keep us connected to our family and current events but there are also ways to create new social connections during this time. Programs like Social Call, Well Connected, and Ruth’s Table provide opportunities to join insightful discussions, connect one on one, and experience art all while sheltering in place.
Connect One on One
Social Call pairs older adult participants with volunteers for one on one conversations. Matches meet for 30 minutes every week over the phone. It’s a great opportunity to meet someone new and it’s “a tangible way to alleviate pain in our world,” says Social Call Director Katie Wade.
Matches connect over their shared interests or backgrounds and often teach each other new things. “I’ve learned about delighting in the present,” says one Social Call volunteer, while another notes that “I always learn beneficial things from my match – especially relating to growing flowers.”
Social Call is actively seeking volunteers and participants and it’s easy to get started. Individuals interested in volunteering can get started on VolunteerMatch and older adults looking to participate can get in touch by calling (877) 797-7299 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join a New Community
Looking for an inclusive community where you can participate in caring conversations, learn new things, and even travel to different countries without leaving your home? Well Connected offers easily accessible sessions over the phone that range from writing groups and guided meditation to armchair travel and museums at home. Amber Carroll, Well Connected Director, notes “COVID-19 or not, these programs provide a unique opportunity to connect with others from the comfort of home.”
Well Connected sessions are free and available in both English and Spanish. Check out what sessions are currently being offered in the Well Connected and Well Connected Español catalogs. Enrolling is as easy as calling (877) 797-7299.
Send a Card
In addition to staying connected over the phone or online, Social Call and Well Connected are currently creating snail mail connections as well. Both programs are looking for volunteers who are willing to send cards to brighten participants’ mailboxes. It’s as easy as having a handful of postcards and a pen. Volunteers have been sharing everything from a quick note of encouragement to sketches of what they have been doing while social distancing.
Interested in sending a card? Check out VolunteerMatch to get started.
Visit a Museum Virtually
Ruth’s Table is an art space and gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco that hosts exhibits and art programming. Though in-person art programming and classes are currently closed to keep the community safe, Ruth’s Table is offering a virtual tour of their current exhibition Echoes of the New Vision through Well Connected on March 25th from 11am to 12pm PST.
Curator Hanna Regev will provide an in-depth tour of the exhibit and the facilitator will include verbal descriptions for those with low vision. Explore how Bauhaus ideas have impacted photography and photo-based art from the comfort of your home over the phone or through your computer. To learn more and register, email email@example.com.
During this time, it is important to remember all of the ways that we are connected even when we are physically distant. Reaching out to someone that you care about or creating a new connection can be a great way to remind oneself that though we’re all staying in our personal spaces, we’re still participating in the same shared world.
Happy Employee Appreciation Day! We are so excited to celebrate all of the amazing people who help Covia support older adults around the Bay Area and beyond. In honor of this holiday, we were inspired to share stories about our incredible employees from throughout the organization.
Lizette Suarez, Well Connected Español Program Manager
Lizette came to WCE without having ever worked with older adults, but her humor, energy, dedication, passion, and skills leave me believing that she was the only person for the job. As a one-woman team for the first year, she made our fantasy of diversifying Well Connected a robust reality and has successfully created a virtual community for nearly 100 older adults living across 5 states!
Amber Carrol, Director of Well Connected
Rita Mukhsinova, Ruth’s Table Manager
Rita implements gallery exhibits and events of incredibly high quality, which challenges preconceptions of senior living communities. A Bethany Center resident recently commented that a gallery lecture, “was so intellectual and stimulating. Sometimes people think that just because you’re older you won’t get it. The whole gallery and its programming is so intriguing.”
Katie Wade, Director of Social Call
Resident Service Coordination
Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos in Redondo Beach for her hard work and dedication. Kristy went above and beyond with coordinating IWISH (Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing) programs by herself after her partner RWD moved to another site. In spite of the difficult situation, Kristy has been doing an awesome job balancing health presentations, exercise programs, social workshops, art therapy classes and more while managing it all on her own. She kept her professionalism and still manages to serve residents with a great smile. I am grateful and appreciate her willingness to go the extra miles.
Sarah Choi, Lead Resident Service Coordinator
Elvyra Abare, Canterbury Woods Executive Director, and Wei Chang, Canterbury Woods Transportation Manager
The incident/accident I experienced on January 21st on the way to a Covia meeting in Walnut Creek re-affirmed the correct decision I made about entering the Canterbury Woods community. Elvyra, the CW Director, finding me bleeding profusely, took charge and her calm voice and clear directions soothed my state of mind and prevented me from over-reacting. She treated me like I was her mother and that had a profound effect on my perspective of the situation. Where could I find such support in a moment of distress? Canterbury Woods of course…
And Wei, the transportation manager, who had to revise his driving plans because I did not heed to his rules about getting in the limousine, and who understands so well the flaws of human nature. Wei is a master at decision-making, is a compassionate human being and surprised me when I came out of E.R. Wei was there waiting for me and worried about my nutritional needs. Wei easily combined his responsibilities with the CW group he was driving to the Covia meeting and giving me his caring attention. Wei is a multi-tasking man with a heart. Thank you both, Elvyra and Wei.
Canterbury Woods Resident
San Francisco Towers Staff
Thank you! We have just been through an ordeal that I would have had difficulty managing if not for our staff at the SFTowers.
One morning, I heard my husband calling for me. I found him lying in a pool of blood in our hallway near the front door. I called Security and when someone arrived he wisely called our 2nd floor. Two Skilled Nursing staff took my husband’s vitals and called for an ambulance. At the hospital, we found he had dislocated his shoulder.
When we arrived back at SFT, our front desk called for a wheelchair to get us to our apartment. Almost immediately Grace Tom from Resident Health Services, an angel, arrived and took over. She organized everything, meals delivered that day, assistance, doctors orders to the PT people, and for our new doctor to make a house call. Dr. Aissatou Haman came to our apartment and scheduled my husband to see an orthopedic doc and have x-rays done.
While the above was happening, Troy Stewart, Housekeeping Manager, sent someone up to clean up the blood residue I had missed on the floor and the walls. Thank you to our staff for everything. We are most grateful for the care and attention we received in our hour of need. Everyone here knew what to do and did it.
San Francisco Towers Resident
Accounts Payable Team
In our Finance Department, Accounts Payable is responsible for making sure that every invoice gets paid, and Deanna Garcia and Stephanie Canady are an amazing team. Every once in a while you get lucky and find an employee that is a quiet constant, always comes to work on time, hardly every misses a day of work and is dedicated to doing a great job. Deanna is that person! Stephanie is one of those people that is dedicated to not only doing her job well, but she also makes work fun! I really appreciate her quick witted humor! She makes me laugh and smile no matter what problem we are trying to solve.
Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources
Grant Edelstone, Senior Director of Risk Management, Compliance & Risk
Grant is one of those people that you can always count on. He always gives solid, well thought-out advice and is never too busy to lend a hand. I appreciate his calm, professional approach.
Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources
The stories mentioned display only a fraction of the hard work and dedication that Covia employees bring to their job every single day. Thank you to everyone who supports our organization. You are a valued part of our team!
* Some of these stories have been edited to protect resident’s privacy.
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