The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

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.

Ruth’s Table remembers fondly their friend and participant Chuck Raymond, who was an accomplished architectural designer with a love of creative expression. Chuck died in May of 2018 and made a significant gift in his will to support Ruth’s Table, leaving a legacy to creative aging.

Charles “Chuck” Raymond’s passions in life included design, architecture and an extensive network of close friends. Mr. Raymond graduated on full scholarship with honors from the University of Michigan, School of Architecture. He established a well-respected architectural firm, Raymond Designs of Atlanta, Georgia, concentrating for 30 years on commercial airport retail.

Long-time friend Jerry Brown, Covia Senior Director of Affordable Communities, recalls meeting Chuck through a mutual friend who was on his staff as an interior designer. “Chuck was like Cary Grant,” Jerry recalls. “He was debonair, intelligent, and loved the arts, fashion and design.”

Chuck also loved to travel, visiting museums and enjoying the cuisine and culture from London to Paris, Barcelona, Malta, Australia, New Zealand, and Buenos Aires. Jerry remembers the New Year’s Eve dinner and fireworks he shared with Chuck in 2005 at Jules Verne atop the Eiffel Towers. “We also shared family Thanksgiving dinner in 2009 at Windows of the Worlds atop New York’s World Trade Center,” Jerry recalls.

Chuck retired to Palm Springs in 2017 and, through his friendship with Jerry, discovered the range of programs supporting creative expression at Ruth’s Table at Bethany Center. Chuck was an avid art collector with special interest in Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. At Ruth’s Table, he purchased two pieces from the gallery showing of artist Jennifer Ewing’s “Spirit Boats,” meant to symbolize passage and metaphysically hold a person as they journey.  

Ruth’s Table Director Jessica McCracken remembers fondly that Chuck participated in the Ruth’s Table community production of its 50th Anniversary artwork “Crochet Jam” by artist Ramekon Artwisters. The piece hangs in the lobby of Bethany Center.  “Through it we’ll always have a little bit of Chuck’s spirit with us,” she said. 

Jerry noted that Chuck will be remembered by residents, participants, staff, and board members for his love of the arts, fashion, puns, cuisine and world travel that he connected with the diverse seniors of Bethany Center and Ruth’s Table.

Chuck’s estate gift to the Bethany Center Foundation will help support programs at Ruth’s Table that bring people together in creative expression, inspiring Bethany Center residents in creativity and wellness exercise to stimulate the brain, the body and the spirit.

If you have included Covia Foundation or the Bethany Center Foundation in your will or estate plan, please let us know so that we can say thank you. For information on how to include a program or community you care about in your will or estate plan, please contact Covia Foundation Executive Director Katharine Miller at 925.956.7414 or kmiller@covia.org. We’d love to help you make a difference, supporting something you care about.

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!”

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.

Ruth's Table logoOn July 11th, Ruth’s Table, a program of Bethany Center Senior Housing, is celebrating its grand re-opening at a new dedicated gallery space located at 3160 21st Street, San Francisco. The opening reception from 6:00-9:00 pm launches a year-long exploration of Bauhaus through a series of exhibits.

Founded in 2009 with the support of artist Ruth Asawa, Ruth’s Table began as an arts initiative integrated into Bethany Center, an affordable senior housing community. The new building will serve as a gallery and creative learning space where people of all ages can come together to learn, connect, and create.

Jessica McCracken, Director of Ruth’s Table, says, “Ruth’s Table provides a safe, inclusive and welcoming space for the community to engage with arts, build meaningful connections and feel the uplifting joy of community. Our programs encourage personal growth and promote lifelong learning, while strengthening creativity, health, and independence to greatly enhance one’s quality of life.”

The first exhibit in the new space, Beyond the Warp and Weft, launches a year-long inaugural program of contemporary exhibitions celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus. The exhibit brings together 14 artists to illuminate the diversity of contemporary ideas of weaving and textile, highlight innovative craft thinking, and chart the future trajectory of the practice. The exhibition presents a stylistically diverse selection of works that combine hand weaving, sound, science, sculpture and site-specific installation.

Throughout the year, four exhibitions will examine the enduring impact of Bauhaus ideas on weaving and textile design, color interaction and theory, photography, and activism in the arts, with a particular emphasis on the way contemporary art practices have evolved with the innovations in materials and technology.

For more information, please visit https://www.ruthstable.org/.

Bethany Center, a Covia Affordable Community, celebrated 50 years of housing and services for seniors with a range of activities, including a gala event entitled The Art of Growing Older and the unveiling of the newly renovated Salud! mural. The celebrations also mark the completion of a two-year rehabilitation and modernization project of Bethany Center and Ruth’s Table, a gallery and community arts space.

“We honor 50 years of supportive housing and wellness programming for seniors,” says Jerry W. Brown, Senior Director of Covia Affordable Communities. “We recognize the invaluable contributions of the board and staff, community partners, artists, volunteers, and residents who have breathed life into these walls.”

Located in the heart of the Mission District, Bethany Center provides housing and services for almost 200 low-income seniors. In addition, Ruth’s Table offers artist-run workshops, after-hour events, and rotating art exhibitions open to people of all ages and abilities.

At the October 18th gala, attended by more than 400 people, California State Assemblymember David Chu presented the community with a Certificate of Recognition which read, “The California Legislature applauds your half-century of work providing affordable, compassionate housing for San Francisco Seniors, supporting them in their individual needs, and commends you in the inauguration of your new Ruth’s Table creative arts building.” The community also received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for the office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Tom Azumbrado , Regional Director for Mulitfamily West Region of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was also in attendance.

“Bethany Center empowers our residents every day through supportive, innovative programs,” says Benson Lee, Bethany Center’s Housing Administrator. “We all share a commitment to excellence – and we’re ready to meet the challenges of our next 50 years.”

Many Covia community services programs would never take place without the dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Whether they are connecting with people by phone or in person, delivering food or doing art work, volunteers are the backbone of the services we provide people in the greater community.

Market Day, our senior produce market program, is almost entirely volunteer-led. More than 300 volunteers in 20 locations put the produce out in baskets when it arrives or help with overall set up of the market, greet shoppers at the door, check people out at the cashiers table, help shoppers during the market when they are picking produce, or just chat with people. Others bring their musical instruments, such as the Fountain of Ukes which performs for the Market Day at Margaret Todd Senior Center in Novato.

Volunteers are mostly seniors, many of them residents in the senior affordable housing communities where the markets take place. Market Day director Teresa Abney says, “I wish more people knew about the dedication of our volunteers.  They love helping at Market Day and are dedicated and committed to their duties each week.”  

Ruth’s Table at Bethany Center provides a wide range of volunteer-led arts programs and workshops, often led by residents. “One volunteer at Ruth’s Table is Bethany Center’s resident Margie A. Ramirez,” says Ruth’s Table director Jessica McCracken. “Margie has been an active volunteer for Ruth’s Table programs from the moment she moved in. Not only does Margie actively participate as volunteer support but she has brought her granddaughter, Talia, along the way who literally has grown up at Ruth’s Table. Now a young woman in her early teens, Talia takes an active role in Ruth’s Table programs teaching and setting up alongside her grandma.”

Participant volunteers are also an important part of Well Connected. Katie Wade, Assistant Director, shares “A little secret about our volunteers – many of them have chosen not to list their credentials or life experience in an effort to enhance the peer-to-peer aspect of the program. Each call holds such potential as you continuously uncover a variety of treasures hidden in each person’s life story. You could encounter an activist, attorney, world-traveler, mother, band member, first generation immigrant, dairy farmer, and so much more.”

Along with programs out in the community, volunteers who have been trained and gone through a background check may provide services directly in people’s homes, such as the Home Delivered Grocery Program in Novato. “Every Tuesday morning 18 volunteers shop for and deliver groceries to homebound elderly Novato residents who are unable to shop for themselves,” explains Carol Ann Moore, Director of Senior Resources for Marin County. “This is a 23 year old program and we still have one of the original shoppers! Clients not only receive groceries but a friendly visit.  Volunteers are trained to notice and report concerns to the Director. We follow up by connecting them to other services they need or reporting health concerns to their contact person.”

Regular friendly visits are also the goal of Social Call with volunteers either providing a phone call or an in-home visit at least twice a month. “We couldn’t do this without volunteers, as simple as that,” says Brian Stannard, Director of Social Call for San Francisco and Alameda County. “They are the engine.  The volunteers bring all kinds of skills:  languages beyond English, computer skills, companionship, empathy.”

Volunteers include people of all ages. Stannard says, “Many of our new volunteers fall under the millennial category, a group that sometimes generates negative public opinion.  In my observations, their passion and commitment to serving undermines any millennial prejudices people might harbor.” And Moore adds, “Volunteers say that volunteering gives them something to do with their time after they retire. It helps them feel connected and sense of worth.  One volunteer said it provides him immense joy just knowing he is making life a little better for an older person.”

To find out opportunities to volunteer with Covia Community Services, please visit our VolunteerMatch site.