The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

In January, Covia held the 3rd annual Creative Aging Symposium. Creative experts from a variety of fields came together to talk about creativity and how it can help boost resilience. The full recording of the symposium is now available online, broken out by speaker so that you can revisit a particular point or watch the symposium in its entirety. 

Speakers from this year’s symposium include dancer and choreographer Nancy Cranbourne; storyteller and co-founder of MiHistoria.net Albertina Zarazua Padilla; eco-friendly style icon Debra Rapoport; artist and activist Edythe Boone; geriatrician, writer, and educator Louise Aronson; and author and community organizer David “Lucky” Goff.

Takeaways from the 2020 Symposium

Nancy Cranboure kicks off the 2020 Creative Aging Symposium by discussing how dancing is an act of radical self-acceptance and how it imbues inner joy as discovered through the creation of her dance troupe 40 Women Over 40. She then leads in a moment of movement and dance that demonstrates the joy of movement at any age. 

Albertina Padilla offers a moment of creative reflection on reinvention and how to move our stories forward. She highlights concrete tips on how creativity can lead to resiliency framed through the lens of telling and understanding our own personal story.

Style icon Debra Rapoport is interviewed by Julie Pfitzinger, Senior Editor for Features at Next Avenue, and discusses the personal aspect of creativity.  She talks about how picking out what she wears every day has become a moment of meditation and how personal style helps us understand ourselves. Rapoport expounds on the fact that everyone is creative in their own way.

Offering a creative moment of reflection, Edythe Boone discusses how each unique neighborhood inspires the artwork that she creates in that community. She highlights the importance of incorporating a community in the creation of murals, where they are given a platform to highlight an injustice in the community or immortalize the contributions of specific community members.

Dr. Louise Aronson, geriatrician and bestselling author of Elderhood, shares the importance of stories, including in medicine, and how it is important to be intentional with and conscious of the words we use when talking about aging. Aronson also discusses the importance of imagination in aging and how “we are the artists of ourselves.”

To wrap up the Creative Aging Symposium experience, David ‘Lucky’ Goff discusses how as we age we get closer to ourselves and in this we get closer to the universe as a whole. Goff also discusses the importance of community and the ability to share stories within that community that embrace aging.

The Importance of Creativity  

“Creativity is the key ingredient to strengthening resiliency, and thus, it should be an ongoing part of our lives,” notes Creative Aging Symposium creator Katie Wade. “I’m thrilled that we now have the Creative Aging Symposium recordings accessible to us throughout the year. It means our creativity can be sparked at any moment!”

The symposium’s takeaways are particularly pertinent during this time of physical distancing as we find new ways to connect and boost our resiliency. If you are interested in delving deeper into each speaker with a group of interested older adults, Well Connected is currently in the middle of reviewing the symposium, one speaker a week through July 8th. The session meets on Wednesdays and are hosted by Creative Aging Symposium creator and Social Call Director Katie Wade and Well Connected volunteer Nancy Walton-House. These sessions have fostered engaging conversations and a deeper understanding of the importance of creativity. Well Connected participant Michelle notes “I’ve learned that creativity is not just about art but using your creative ideas in other aspects in life.”

We would love to hear what your favorite takeaways are from the symposium and if the symposium inspires you to pursue a new creative endeavor. If you are interested in learning more about creative aging and getting the latest news on next year’s symposium, be sure to sign up for our creative aging newsletter on the symposium video page.  

As our communities shelter in place, residents are finding creative solutions for staying active to manage their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Exercising outside is a great option. The Spring Lake Village Wellness Team has created a par course around the campus to bolster the opportunities for outdoor exercise.

“Many residents already enjoy walking the beautiful creekside path and campus perimeter. Now it will also host an opportunity for a full body workout as you walk,” says Casey Westbrook, Wellness Coordinator. The course includes 17 different stations and 36 exercises targeting all the important aspects of physical fitness for older adults: balance, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility and cardiovascular fitness.

Par courses have become increasingly popular since the first one was developed by the Swiss architect Erin Weckmenn in 1968. Par courses are exercise circuits set outdoors in a park, neighborhood or community. The exercise circuit consists of stations located in one area or spaced out along a trail, each suggesting a different exercise that can be done with little equipment. Since their invention, cities and parks around the world have developed these environmental features to promote the physical health of their communities.

“Par courses provide many health benefits,” says Westbrook. “It is already known that exercise promotes good physical, mental and emotional health, and being outside provides additional health benefits. Studies show that exercising outdoors boosts mood and reduces depression through increased Vitamin D production. Just five minutes of low to moderate intensity outdoor exercise can provide increased self-esteem. Furthermore, exercising outside enhances our connection to nature which can be especially important when we have limited access to the outdoors.”

The Spring Lake Village Par Course starts on the creekside path just outside of the Village Center, and progresses counter-clockwise around campus. Starting at the first station, residents progress by heading towards the Dell to the second station and so on. Most stations are on the often-walked perimeter trail of the campus; however, some take short detours off the trail. 

“Par courses are wonderful in that each person can make the exercises their own,” says Westbrook. Residents can start at any point. The numbers are for reference, but not a requirement for the order in which exercises must be performed. They can do the entire circuit at once, skip the stations that don’t work for them, or break up the course into pieces that can be done over a few different walks.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our communities, Westbrook offers a few health and safety tips for using the par course whether at Spring Lake Village or in other locations:

*This post was originally published in the Spring Lake Village newsletter.

Covia’s Resident Service Coordinators (RSCs) help residents at affordable communities throughout California connect to vital services – work that is more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis.

“RSCs have shown up to work each day from the start of this pandemic and have adapted to providing services to our most vulnerable population while maintaining strict physical distancing,” says Katherine Smith, Senior Director of Social Services. 

As programs and normal services have stalled, the continued work of RSCs ensure that older adults throughout the state can continue to receive the help and care that they need. Under normal circumstances, RSCs coordinate a wide variety of services, ranging from offering social and cultural programs within their communities to helping residents access benefit programs and medical care. During the shelter in place order, RSCs have continued connecting residents to essential services, which now includes getting access to food deliveries, masks, and hand sanitizer.

At Redwood Shores in Vallejo, RSC Jennifer Wright is working with Panera Bread to coordinate donations of unsold fresh food. “I am happy to report that with each donation we have been able to feed all of the residents,” Wright says.  

Wright also worked with the city to secure donations of laundry soap, hand soap, and canned goods. “I also got a donation of 5.5 gallon liquid hand sanitizer when hand sanitizer was sparse,” she says. “But I can’t take the credit for it all as my site has really come together as a community. We have residents who go to church together, that cook up to 20 hot meals each Saturday giving it to residents. Another resident made and donated 100 cloth masks for staff and residents!”

Esther Koc, RSC for Covia’s Presidio Gate Apartment in San Francisco, has solicited donations for face coverings for staff as well as residents. “All essential, onsite staff have been supplied with reusable face coverings since April.  All PGA residents were also supplied as of early May.” Esther is now working on securing reusable face coverings for residents at two other communities. “We cannot make people wear them but providing them and exhausting all our options allows us to say we did all we could.” 

There’s a lot of education that goes along with keeping people safe and healthy. “I find there continues to be confusion with residents about wearing masks when exiting their units,” says Koc. “Many accuse onsite staff of being infected due to us wearing them. But I continue to educate that protecting self also protects others.  We all need to do our part to keep our communities safe and well.”

RSCs provide residents with easy ways to prioritize their overall wellness as they shelter in place.  “Residents are following the shelter-in-place guidelines well, but as the time passes by, they were noticeably becoming weaker due to lack of exercise,” says Sara Choi, RSC at Vista Towers in Los Angeles.  “We have been following up with the residents to encourage them to at least walk in the hallway since Vista Tower has no garden or open space for residents to walk safely.  We provided them resources of YouTube senior exercise links and encouraged them to do some exercises using YouTube.  We also printed out simple exercises for those who do not have a smart phone or any kind of device.”

Wellness includes staying socially connected, which is an important part of the RSCs’ role as people are unable to gather in groups. Smith notes that ending social isolation is the #1 goal of resident service coordinators, and staying physically distant is hard for the RSCs as well as the residents. “RSCs have gotten creative though. Every resident at every site is reached out to once a week. We miss our residents but do what we must to protect them.”

Choi says, “We have been periodically contacting residents via phone to check in on them to make sure they have everything they need and socialize with them so that they won’t feel lonely and isolated. Since they know us already and have a trusted relationship built up, they were feeling more comfortable talking to us.”  

“During the shelter in place, I have gotten the chance to get closer to my residents by calling them weekly,” says Wright. “Redwood Shores has really shown me that even while social distancing, we can still come together as a community, just six feet apart.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, Covia is dedicated to supporting team members as they provide essential care throughout our communities. Part of this support is the ‘Essential Support’ program, which was put into effect on April 29th. This program includes financial support to help with unexpected costs, time off, choice of a fun “family time” membership, and merit increases.

As Covia CEO Kevin Gerber noted in a letter to employees with the announcement of the program, “We are so proud of the work our employees have been doing under difficult circumstances to make sure that our residents are safe and well cared for. The Essential Support program offers more support to all of our employees who are providing essential services for life and safety.”

The Essential Support program began as a survey, when Covia leadership reached out to employees throughout the organization to gauge how best to provide support during this time. Based on survey responses from over 600 employees and in the spirit of Covia’s Guiding Principles, the program provides assistance in areas where staff showed interest and need. These benefits fall into different categories including merit increases, help with expenses, time off, paid leave, and protective equipment.  

The Essential Support Program

As part of the Essential Support program, beginning in May, all employees at Covia communities who joined Covia before January 2020 will receive a merit increase. This is paired with up to $500 to go toward essential expenses such as groceries and childcare.

On top of monetary benefits, the program also includes the ability to earn up to 1 floating holiday per month to use as needed and a commitment that employees will not lose wages due to COVID-19. If a Covia employee contracts COVID-19 or is waiting on test results, the organization will ensure that team members are properly compensated. This includes coordinating with State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits and ensuring staff have enough paid time off or paid sick leave for wages not covered by SDI.

In addition to the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in use at the communities, Covia is also supplying cloth masks to employees that they can take home to their families. The Essential Support program also offers a benefit employees can share with their family. They can choose between a Disney+ membership, a Netflix membership, an Amazon Prime membership, or a Costco Goldstar membership, which can be utilized now for shopping or entertainment, or a Fandango Movie Card that can be used after the crisis is over.

“In creating this program, we started with a simple goal – support our team members holistically,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of HR. “We understood the financial strain COVID-19 had caused and were committed to providing support to help ease the financial burden – and, we wanted to do more. We wanted to provide the gift of time to rest and recharge.  Time to share with their children, spouses, and loved ones – even if it was something as simple as watching movies on Netflix, enjoying the classics on Disney +, or shopping on Amazon for some home essentials. Our team members are more than a financial transaction, they are what make Covia a unique place to work.”

Thank you to all Covia employees who are ensuring residents are receiving the best care during this difficult time. Covia employees who are interested in learning more about the Essential Support program, please reach out to your HR representative. And if you are interested in joining the Covia team, please visit our careers site!

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 contact@ruthstable.org.

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 contact@ruthstable.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.

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 socialcall@covia.org. It is a simple and safe volunteering opportunity during this time that can make a difference for you and an isolated older adult.

The shelter-in-place order means that many of us are adapting to new schedules and finding new ways to keep ourselves busy. Webster House residents, including one feline resident, are sharing their new routines and how they have adapted.

Dick S.

My two-room cave with balcony has several activity centers.

Dining Table: Read morning NY Times (2 hrs.) and magazines, open and discard mail, seating area for TV, eating.

Balcony:  Portable camping barbecue, occasional steaks or salmon.

Computer Desk: Check email, compose responses, delete spam, read Microsoft News, look at cartoons, open abstracts more detail, review financial data, color edit old travel slides (default activity).

Garden Room (low bench at bay window): Some 22 miniature orchids live in a vivarium (plastic storage box), grow-lights above and algae sludge swamp pond below.  A daily mist spray and checking for flowers takes about ten minutes a day. On the bench, in room conditions, is an African vine with a new 8-inch growth tendril, seeking a twig to wind around. Before it finds its twig, a hair clip will attach it to a circular frame – a very occasional event for this.

J. A.

Quiet. Staying at home is peaceful, with time to think, to meditate even. No need to be sociable, or to go to meetings. No need to dress appropriately. But visiting my little balcony is no substitute for walking freely outside. I miss our exercise classes, and swimming.

By the time we are released from sheltering-in-place, I will most likely have had more than enough of this nice quiet. For now, I am enjoying rereading the first two of Hilary Mantel’s books on Thomas Cromwell and looking forward to starting her recently published final volume.

Judy & Dave C.

We’re reading posts from our grand dog.

Jean B.

I am doing fine and determined not to get depressed. Rainstorm was needed and welcome, and now the sunshine is pouring in my window and I’m listening to my jazz station. A good lunch in the apartment, thanks to our great cooks and servers.

Joan U.

The view from our apartments is a huge help in combatting “I’m trapped” syndrome – trees and sky in an ever-changing panorama. I loved last night’s rolling bar.

Also, I’ve been walking.  One Palo Alto walk near Webster House is:

San Francisquito Creek

San Francisquito Creek is the dividing line between Palo Alto and Menlo Park – a placid little trickle of water until it occasionally goes wild and inundates whole neighborhoods, causing a great deal of property damage.  Walking up Palo Alto Avenue you will find several small grassy clearings where you can peer through the undergrowth and see the creek meandering over rocks between sandbagged banks.  Where Palo Alto Ave. joins Alma Street at the rail crossing there is a small park with a footpath that leads to a pedestrian bridge over the creek and into Menlo Park.  Follow the path to read signage about the history and ecology of the creek, the wildlife that is being restored, the people who lived here before us and El Palo Alto, the redwood tree that our city is named for. Crossing over the creek, you can turn right onto East Creek Drive and walk back along the creek through a neighborhood of older ranch homes with pretty gardens and whimsical sculptures. Continue right onto Willow Road toward Middlefield.  Look for the signs for the pedestrian bridge that will take you back across the creek close to Waverley Street. Don’t miss the owl box suspended over the bridge, and the pig sculpture at the corner of Waverley and Ruthven!  Turn right on Cowper and you will find yourself in front of Colette.  At this writing they are still doing take-out.

 

Magnus the Magnificat graciously agreed to record his impressions of containment:

“Life for me is pretty good. My human has to stay home so there are many opportunities for pets, cuddles, scritches, and lots of snacks. I need yowl but once to prompt my lowly handmaiden to hop up and accede to my every whim. I still get to go outside on my patio any time I care to. Finally, I am getting my due.”


During this time as we shelter-in-place, it can be helpful to remember all of the things we can be thankful for and the positives that surround us. Sunshine coming in the windows. Rain that is nourishing the spring flowers. A good book. Technology that allows us to connect to loved ones even as we stay home. What small things are brightening your day and bringing you joy?

To all of our Covia family,

As you are well aware, the presence of COVID-19 in our country has impacted all of us in ways large and small. Every day, the story seems to shift as another news article or chart or special report appears. Coronavirus at the same time seems at once close and also very far away. It has affected all of our lives, even if we know no one who has become infected.

Through all of the sudden changes, the social distancing, the shelter-in-place orders, I have seen how everyone at Covia has worked together to care for each other. It is a sign of the strength of the communities we have built that things have gone as smoothly as they have in the midst of such uncertainty. It is a sign of the value we place on community that we have been able to provide multiple sources of connection even as we have been required to distance ourselves from one another.

We chose the name Covia as a way to announce that we “come together on the path of life.” I can think of no better place to be on this unexpected path than with all of you.

Thank you for everything you do. Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.

Kevin

Kevin Gerber
President and CEO

News and updates about Covia’s response to COVID-19 can be found on our website at https://covia.org/covid-19-response-and-resources/

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 coviaconnections@covia.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 contact@ruthstable.org

 

Staying Connected

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.