The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

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 Covia Foundation recently hosted an online presentation to provide insights on the recent changes to U.S. tax laws and what impact that might have.

“As I speak with residents and friends out in our communities, we’re getting a lot of questions about recent tax law changes,” says Katharine Miller, Executive Director of the Covia Foundation. “We thought it would be good to share an overview on some of these changes – especially now since many of us have time to catch up on all of that planning and some of those details.”

To provide some information, the Foundation invited Bill McMorran of Green Oak Consulting to provide some basics on the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act – “880 pages of fun” – while emphasizing that “as always, you need to talk to your own advisors because they do know your situation better than anyone else.”

Although the new tax deadline is July 15th, “It’s really important if you have a refund coming to file as soon as possible.” Although McMorran filed his taxes and those of his mother on the same day, McMorran received the direct deposit into his account after five working days, while his mother received her paper check about a week later. “We’re seeing that the direct deposit accounts are the ones that receive priority – or at least they’re moving them out faster,” he says.

On the other hand, if you expect to owe taxes, “you have 90 more days to file your federal returns, and California gives you until July 15 as well to file your tax return. So if you owe money, figure it out, and then sit on it until about July 10, then send it in.” The July 15 deadline also extends to contributions to retirement funds.

Estimated tax payment deadlines have also been extended. Your April 15 first quarterly estimated taxes for the United States and for California are now due July 15. In a recent change, the June 15 second quarterly payment to the US and to California are also now due on July 15.

McMorran noted that “probably one of the best pieces of news I think anyone could expect or have asked for is that, if you take a required minimum distribution out of your IRA, you do not have to take it this year.” Those who choose not to take the distribution will have a lower income and, accordingly, lower taxes.

“If you’ve already taken your required minimum distribution in the past 60 days, you can put it back in,” explains McMorran. He refers people and their financial advisors to section 2203 of the CARES Act to determine what’s best for them. 

Finally, McMorran encourages people to take advantage of this time to review their overall estate plan. “Have you looked at your estate plans in the past three to five years?” he asks. He suggests making sure that your beneficiaries, trustees, and legally responsible parties are all current and able to fulfill the duties assigned to them. “Also, while we have a lot of time on our hands, think about your own legacy: how to best benefit people, the organizations you care about, what really matters, and what you want to share with the future.”

If you would like to see McMorran’s full presentation, as well as another video that goes into more depth about other planning topics, please contact Katharine Miller at the Covia Foundation at kmiller@covia.org and she will send you the online video links.  Covia Foundation will be offering more useful information by video in the future.

The Foundation is available to provide support and insight into your financial planning, charitable giving, charitable remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities, and legacy planning. You can read the Foundation’s most recent Community Matters newsletter to learn about Covia’s impact in the greater community and how gifts and donations to the Foundation help provide critical services to older adults.

September 23rd marks not only the first day of fall but also Falls Prevention Awareness Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of falls and how to prevent them.

While adults 65 and older are at an elevated risk for falls, these are not a natural part of aging and many falls can be prevented. It is especially important to prevent falls because they pose a significant threat to the health and independence of older adults, including causing serious injuries like a traumatic brain injury or hip fracture as well as being a major cause of unintentional death. Even if a fall does not cause an injury, it can trigger a fear of falling that can result in cutting down on everyday activities and becoming weaker.

The good news is that there are a lot of easy ways to prevent falls and cut down on the anxiety surrounding a fall. Joanie Bowes-Warren, Sr. Director of Quality and Care, notes that the first step to reduce falls is to “be proactive versus reactive.” Here are some tips on how to be proactive and reduce the chance of a fall.

Exercise for Balance and Fall Prevention

One easy way to prevent a fall is to improve balance. Balance exercises are easy to learn and practice at home and many are available on the Go4Life website. Practicing balance exercises not only helps reduce the possibility of a fall, it can also reduce anxiety by being proactive about any balance issues.

Another great option is to join or start a fall prevention program. These programs are dedicated to providing fall prevention information while also raising awareness.

Talk to Your Doctor

Doctors are a great resource to prevent falls. Bowes-Warren notes that “doctors and medical professionals should look over your medications regularly to make sure that they aren’t a contributing factor.” It’s important to pay particular attention to opioid painkillers, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and sedatives.

Doctors can also help by performing annual vision tests, checking for foot pain and proper footwear, and being a great source of knowledge on what other changes can prevent falls. If necessary, they can also assist in finding the correct walking aid.

Make Your Home Safe

Preventing falls in the home can be as easy as making sure that floor space is clear and rooms are well lit. A cluttered floor increases the possibility of tripping and falling, so be sure to clear the floor and arrange furniture so there is plenty of room for walking.

Railings and grab bars can ease movement up and down the stairs as well as making it easier to move in and out of a bathtub or shower. Good lighting makes navigation easier and is especially important on stairs and in hallways. Even when at home, it can be helpful to use a cane or walker to ensure stability. It is also important to put essential items where they are easy to reach since straining for something that is out of reach can easily tip one off balance.

Make Smart Choices

A number of falls can be prevented by taking the time to make smart choices. “Be cognizant that there are a lot of fall hazards and make sure to look at your surroundings and make sure that it is safe” says Bowes-Warren.

One of the easiest ways to prevent a fall is to take some time before standing to make sure that your feet are under you and that you are not light headed. Giving yourself the opportunity to make sure that you are ready before you stand up can both reduce anxiety and the likelihood of a fall.

If there are any tasks that require climbing a ladder or stepladder, ask for help. One resource is the Rotary Home Team, which schedules volunteers from local Rotary clubs to do minor home repairs such as changing lightbulbs, smoke alarm batteries, or other tasks.

Finally, be aware of how alcohol’s effect is different depending on age and steer away from drinking alcohol to excess.

Know Yourself

As Bowes-Warren notes “you have to know yourself.” Being aware of personal abilities and limitations is crucial to making the right adjustments to prevent a fall. These steps are a great starting point but it is important to consider them in respect to your personal situation to decide what is relevant and will provide the most help. 

Download a handout of tips and resources here.

Welcome to our blog. We know that company blogs are everywhere, and some may think them passé, but we are excited to get started.

We wanted a place to share information about the programs, activities, resources, and events we have to offer. We wanted a place to share the wisdom of so many people who work, live, and volunteer with us. And we wanted a place where we could comment on the areas that impact seniors wherever they live.

This space will provide a channel to express in the moment on what’s important to us, to reflect on our history and heritage, and to look forward to the good things we believe are to come.

We hope you’ll join in and that this blog will give you resources you can use as you navigate your own path into healthy and successful aging.