The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

Twenty people from Covia attended the 2019 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo, held October 27-30 in San Diego California. Representing Covia’s Communities, Affordable Housing, Community Services, Support Services, and Foundation, they were informed and inspired by lectures, sessions, exhibits, demonstrations, as well their colleagues from non-profit aging service providers from around the country.

In total, over 8,000 people attended the 2019 conference, which offered 179 educational programs as well as an exhibit hall showcasing products and services for seniors and senior living ranging from architects to in-home health care products to wellness programs and equipment.

Christina Spence, Executive Director of San Francisco Towers, was particularly impressed by keynote speakers Marcus Buckingham and Dan Heath. Speaking at the opening session, Buckingham addressed Nine Lies About Work, encouraging listeners to “replay what works” while on Tuesday, Heath emphasized creating “peak moments.” Spence was impressed by “the statistically-proven impact certain ‘peak’ moments such as first-day and transitions can have on residents and staff at our communities. This is a powerful opportunity for us to create great experiences!”

Both Lizette Suarez, Director of Well Connected Español, and Rod Moshiri, Executive Director of Webster House, each attending their first LeadingAge conference, learned something worthwhile in the sessions they attended.  Suarez says she learned tips on bridging the generation gap while Moshiri got to explore the differences between operations for for-profit and non-profit senior living organizations. But you didn’t need to be a first-time attendee to learn something new. Mary McMullin, Chief Strategy and Advancement Officer, attending her 33rd LeadingAge conference, participated in a session that taught her about a better approach to risk management of resident agreements.

Covia also provided educational information for attendees. Amber Carroll, Director of Well Connected, and Katie Wade, Director of Social Call, presented a workshop on Building Connections, One Call at a Time, demonstrating how a gracious presence, creativity, and connection provide outcomes of health – and joy. As she experienced her first LeadingAge conference, Carroll reported, “I like the diversity of the educational sessions and find myself interested in other arenas of the senior living space.” Though she was presenting, she learned from those who attended the session as well. “LeadingAge is a different demographic from most of the aging conferences we attend.  I’m always trying to understand how to break our cool community services into housing communities and got some good feedback from session attendees.  Based on this, Well Connected has prioritized the strategy process around monetizing our programs in senior communities.”

Educational sessions were not the only benefit from attending the conference. Chris Dana, Covia’s VP of Information Technology, reports that “time spent with colleagues and vendors” was the best part of the event. With “a ton of new technology start-ups ‘invading’ senior living,” he expects that in future he will “spend more time on the expo floor and less time in the educational sessions.”

Covia also played a role in the social events around the meeting. As an experience sponsor for the annual LeadingAge Inclusion Reception, Covia co-hosted what LeadingAge described as “an unparalleled nightlight experience” at PARQ in the Gaslamp district. As the LeadingAge website explains, “This event pays tribute to those who have paved the way for diversity and inclusion in aging services and celebrates the work our members do every day providing high-quality supports and services for all.” Jessica McCracken, Director of Ruth’s Table, was one of the M.C.s of the Monday night event, which ran from 9:00 until midnight.

Mary Linde, Executive Director of St. Paul’s Towers, sums up the experience: “I’ve been attending LeadingAge conferences for over 20 years.  My favorite part of the conference is always seeing old colleagues and making new connections. The classes are good, but the networking is the best.  At this year’s conference I learned about new technology – an app to connect staff to their departments – that I thought may be useful to explore.  I also was extremely proud to be part of Covia as a host of the LGBT Inclusion party…what an event, what a great company to bring people together like this.  Such a celebration of life!”

Kevin Gerber and Doug Pace

Kevin Gerber and Doug Pace

On Tuesday, October 30th, Kevin Gerber, Covia’s President and CEO, along with Doug Pace, Director of Mission Partnerships for the Alzheimer’s Association, welcomed LeadingAge members to the Inclusion Reception, an event at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo in Philadelphia. Covia was one of the Signature Donors for the event. 

Kevin – Good evening and welcome to the City of Brotherly Love and to LeadingAge’s Inclusion Reception. My name is Kevin Gerber and I’m the president and CEO of Covia, one of the proud sponsors of tonight’s event.
Doug  – And I’m Doug Pace, Director of Mission Partnerships for the Alzheimer’s Association, also one of the proud sponsors this evening.

Thanks to Jerry Brown’s perseverance and advocacy, the first Inclusion Reception occurred when AAHSA, as LeadingAge was then known, held its annual meeting in San Francisco in 2006. Back then, many members never had even heard the term LGBT. Now, we’re hearing it from the podium at the plenary sessions. Then, there were no sessions dedicated to LGBT seniors. This year, we have workshops on preventing elder abuse and person-centered care specifically focused on LGBT seniors.

We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Only recently we saw the news of a same-sex couple who were refused entry into a senior living community because of their relationship. We still hear of LGBT seniors who decide to leave communities due to the homophobia of their neighbors. We know of friends and colleagues in this industry who still to this day feel they must hide their authentic selves in the place where they work. And many of the gains that we have made as a society seem vulnerable to reversal.

And so, although we’re here tonight to celebrate and enjoy one another, let’s not forget that this is a Party with a Purpose. We can’t rest and say our work is done. In her keynote address on Sunday, Frances Frei said, “You can’t argue for inclusion for one without arguing for inclusion for all.” We need to carry this spirit of inclusion with us to our communities and to our industry, for LGBT persons, and for everyone. After the party is over, let’s go back to our communities and our industry, speaking up for the inclusion of all and working to ensure that the differences among us are not merely tolerated, but welcomed and celebrated.

Residents and staff from Covia Affordable Communities recently attended LeadingAge California’s annual Affordable Senior Housing Resident Advocacy Day in Sacramento. One of our staff members reported that one resident left an impact on his Assemblyman when he introduced himself saying, “My name is Dean and I was homeless for four years before I got a studio in an affordable HUD building.” We’ve asked Dean to share his story.

If you have ever experienced a trauma (and most of us have), you may not want to talk about it. That’s the way it was with me, but my friends at Covia convinced me that other people might be helped by my “confession.” So, here goes.

The trouble began in early 2012. Having been unemployed for 2 years (a direct result of the 2008 recession), my money completely ran out and I was faced with eviction from my Oakland apartment of 16 years. When you can’t pay the rent, the sheriff simply changes the locks and you don’t get in.

A friend (call him J.R.) saved me from life in the street by offering to let me sleep in his van. This is not an ordeal I would wish on anyone. Though not too uncomfortable physically (just make sure you have lots of blankets in cold weather), you are constantly in fear of police and hostile “neighbors.”

After 3 ½ years in this situation, I returned to the van one afternoon to find that it was no longer there. A police woman parked nearby informed me that the van had been towed only an hour before. All my possessions (books, CDs, clothing and a guitar) were gone. Although I’d been careful not to park it in front of anyone’s house (it had been near an empty lot), I guess the old Dodge Ram was an eyesore to some “upstanding citizens.” So I experienced two disasters in less than 4 years.

At this point, I walked to J.R.’s house and told him what had happened. He somewhat shamefacedly admitted that he had neglected to pay some old parking tickets as well as vehicle registration, but then offered to let me sleep in a tent in his back yard.

One afternoon soon after this, I received a phone call from Oak Center Towers. I had applied for residency there over a year before, and they now had a vacant studio apartment. This was the first cheerful note in my life since 2010! On arriving at my first interview, I met Julia Bergue, a sweet and flexible person who did all the necessary paperwork.

Finally, on August 17, 2016, I spent the first night in my new home. Somewhat dazedly, I realized there was a solid, legitimate, leak-proof roof over my head.

So take it from me: when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way is up. Keep a-going’!!

Dean, age 66, earned his Master’s degree and worked as a paralegal for 20 years before losing his job during the great recession. 

 

San Francisco Towers resident Claude Lowen offered the opening reflection at this year’s LeadingAge California Annual Conference and Expo, held in Pasadena May 7-9, 2018.

I am reflecting from a somewhat different position than the more usual perspective offered at LeadingAge meetings – the outlook of an octogenarian who has been a CCRC resident for eight years.  In this, I hope that Proverbs 20:29 is correct in saying that “The glory of youths is their strength, but the majesty of old men is their gray hair.”

For CCRC residents like me, “long term” has a different meaning than it used to, but when involved in community affairs we still try to plan for others coming after us, even if we won’t directly benefit from the improvements we are working for. 

Our life as residents is distinct in that it is essentially without power within the community, while we are at the same time exceptionally dependent on the spirit of obligation and stewardship of others.  Residents face uncertainties in costs of care, the future of government funding, and the outlook for skilled nursing availability.  The passage to a more powerless and dependent life has been a stormy one for some residents, and this has created some burdens for you as care providers.  

We are in a time, in senior care as well as all other walks of life, when many are proposing answers, answers often not requested but nonetheless forcefully expressed, but fewer are asking the necessary questions and even fewer are willing to listen first.  As a resident member of the LeadingAge California Board of Directors, I have seen that LeadingAge has been asking the necessary questions and is listening to the answers it is hearing.

You, LeadingAge and the senior services providers of California, are the people we residents are relying on, whether because of physical or mental necessity or simply by contract.  These are demanding jobs, calling for great commitment, and often involve more stress and less compensation than employment elsewhere.  It is noteworthy that many providers have a religious foundation, including my own, which began life in the mid-nineteenth century as the Protestant Episcopal Old Ladies Home.  It has since relaxed its admission policy.

I have looked for a pithy saying to close my reflection, and the quotation, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, fits the challenges and obligations assumed by LeadingAge and the entire elder care community.  A more personal aspiration was my mother’s frequently expressed measure of a person – wisdom.  For her, the measure of success was not wealth, public acclaim or personal popularity, but wisdom, and her judgment that a person had no wisdom was a severe rebuke.  I believe that the efforts of everyone at LeadingAge and all of you at our communities are meeting that test, and hope that you will continue to strive to do so.  I and all residents of our communities are relying on you and I am confident that you will.