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!”

As the situation in Sonoma County continues to develop, Covia is working with our communities  Jennings Court and Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa, with Friends House in Santa Rosa (with whom we have a management agreement), with our Community Services program participants throughout the county, and with our employees to ensure everyone’s safety.

Friday, November 1, 2019

10:00 am

We’re pleased that life is starting to return to normal in our communities. We continue to be grateful to the firefighters who are still working to contain the Kincade fire, which as of this writing is only 68% contained. And we offer comfort and condolences to all who have sustained losses or been traumatized during this past week.

All residents have returned to Jennings Court and were welcomed home with a communal meal of chili. Residents are continuing to return to Spring Lake Village and Friends House. Covia employees who evacuated are also returning to their homes. Welcome home, everyone!

Unless there are further developments, this will be the final update on this blog post.  

Thursday, October 31, 2019

11:30am

Containment of the Kincade fire is now at 60%. In Santa Rosa, all evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

4:40pm

Power has been restored to Spring Lake Village.

2:45pm

The Evacuation Order for Jennings Court has been downgraded to an Evacuation Warning. Residents are allowed to repopulate with advisement that a warning is still in place. 

1:30pm

Power has been restored at Friends House. 

10:00am

Winds overnight were not as strong as predicted, which allowed firefighters to hold the line. Containment of the fire is now up to 30%, according to Cal Fire. Winds are projected to be calmer through today though a Red Flag warning is still active.

Friends House and Spring Lake Village continue to shelter in place, remaining on alert, though a mandatory evacuation is unlikely today. Power remains out at both locations.

Power has been restored to Jennings Court though the mandatory evacuation is still in place.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

9:30 am

Friends House and Spring Lake Village continue to shelter in place. Although a mandatory evacuation is unlikely today, we remain on alert. Our main concern at this time is the air quality, and we continue to encourage our Independent Living residents to consider voluntary evacuation.

Representatives from PG&E contacted Spring Lake Village to report that they will not have power restored today because the community is too close to the fire zone to be able to inspect the lines before they would be required to turn off the power again. The community is receiving deliveries of food and fuel.

At Friends House, Executive Director Clara Allen reports that the County Ombudsman visited the campus on Monday to check on residents and provide support.  

According to the report from Cal Fire updated at 7:30 this morning, “Favorable weather conditions will enhance firefighting efforts in the morning while narrow roads and steep terrain are still making access to the fire areas difficult. Weather predictions show Northeast wind gusts picking up this evening. Firefighters will continue to mitigate structure threats and find opportunities to construct more control lines.” We are hopeful that firefighters will be able to make further progress in containing the fire throughout the day.

Monday, October 28, 2019

7:30 am

There have been no new developments overnight. Spring Lake Village and Friends House remain in a state of watchful readiness. With almost no winds forecast for today, we are hopeful that firefighters will be able to make some progress in containing the Kincade fire today. We do not expect to see mandatory evacuations put in place today, but will be ready in case we receive the order.

Employees: please report to work at your usual time if you are able. If you have evacuated out of the area or are unable to report to work, please inform your supervisor and HR manager. Thank you!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

6:00 pm

There is little new information to report.

The Executive Directors of Friends House and Spring Lake Village report that there has been no change. Covia has spent much of the day working to support the staff on-site, ensuring that Friends House and Spring Lake Village are fully prepared to evacuate, should a mandatory evacuation order be put in place. Winds in the region are blowing southwest and the fires does not appear to be getting any closer to the communities.

Friends House and Spring Lake Village have suggested voluntary evacuation to those residents who have a safe place to go. This allows residents time to relocate to a place of their choice with more time to prepare. It also allows the reduced number of staff to focus on helping residents at a higher level of care both in providing for their daily needs and in the case of a mandatory evacuation.

Jennings Court has been evacuated, although a few residents have refused to vacate the premises. The Santa Rosa Police Department has been informed of the residents who have chosen to remain on site.

Social Call Santa Rosa has ensured that its most vulnerable participants have been able to evacuate.

Employees should keep their supervisors and HR department informed about their availability.

Please stay safe!

8:00 am
As of now, Jennings Court is under an evacuation order. Sadie Bracy, Jennings Court’s Housing Administrator, is facilitating the evacuation and Karim Sultan, VP of Affordable Housing is providing support. All but a few Jennings residents have relocations sites they have individually chosen. Those who do not have another evacuation site are being provided with a place to stay in Oakland.

As of this writing, Friends House and Spring Lake Village are outside the mandatory evacuation order zone, but we are encouraging voluntary evacuations. Residents are asked to please inform their communities if they are evacuating, along with their new location and contact information. If you are a resident who has evacuated or are otherwise off-site and not informed your community of your location, please contact your community as soon as possible.

Social Call Sonoma County has reached out to participants to check on their safety.

Employees should report to Spring Lake Village or Friends House for their normal shift as they are able. If you are unable to report to work, please inform your HR department and supervisor as soon as possible. We are working to communicate with all staff today. Please follow any evacuation orders you receive.

We will provide further updates as the situation develops.

October 1st through 7th mark Active Aging Week, a weeklong celebration of living well and aging well initiated by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).

The term active naturally conjures up images of exercising or other physical activities, but active aging encompasses far more than just keeping oneself physically fit. The ICAA highlights seven dimensions of wellness: from physical and emotional wellness to less well known dimensions like environmental and vocational. The point of Active Aging Week is to highlight that active aging involves more than just keeping the body fit; it’s about recognizing all of the different aspects that allow one to age with purpose.

“Active aging is choosing to live life with vitality and meaning,” notes Diane Waltz, Director of Wellness at Spring Lake Village. In the hustle and bustle of life, it can be easy to forget about how important it is to consider all of the dimensions of wellness, which is what makes Active Aging Week so crucial.

Covia & Active Aging

Covia strives to support every dimension of wellness through community programs and amenities as well as community services.

Activities and classes support physical, emotional, and intellectual wellness within Covia’s Life Plan communities. Engaging exercise activities like line dancing and chair volleyball keep residents both physically and socially engaged as they exercise in a group setting. Creative classes like beading and card making allow residents to pursue their emotional wellness by creating pieces of art. Regularly updated libraries that foster engaging book clubs improve intellectual wellness alongside activities such as Brain Fitness and Brain Builders. Life Plan communities even support vocational wellness with the opportunity to volunteer for causes like Habitat for Humanity or local food banks.

Environmental Wellness

Covia is also dedicated to environmental wellness through CoviaGreen, initiated by residents and staff at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland. CoviaGreen is a committee-led program that focuses on sustainable living and environmental responsibility. This takes the form of the CoviaGreen pledge, which highlights a number of ways that residents and staff can reduce their negative impact on the environment from eating seasonal fruits and vegetables to turning off lights and appliances when not in use.

Beyond the pledge, the greater St. Paul’s Towers community has also implemented changes to promote environmental wellness. These changes include making Impossible Burgers available at all meals and adopting housekeeping programs that allow residents to forgo cleaning if it is not needed. CoviaGreen was created with the intent that it will inspire other communities to make a similar commitment to environmental responsibility.

Spiritual Wellness

With an Episcopal heritage, it would be easy to assume that spiritual wellness at Covia is tied directly to religion. But spiritual wellness encompasses far more than just religious practices or beliefs. Each Covia senior living community has its own chaplain who is tasked with supporting residents and staff from a myriad of religious backgrounds.

Chaplains guide the spiritual health of the community, which can take the form of religious services but more broadly supports spiritual wellness by being someone that residents can talk to for any type of spiritual help. Kevin Philips, chaplain at Canterbury Woods says, “A chaplain finds joy in nurturing the human spirit by offering kindness, connection and an empathetic ear.” Having support can be the first step in cultivating a stronger sense of spiritual wellness.

Social Wellness

Covia Community Services are dedicated to improving social wellness in older adults. Programs like Well Connected and Social Call were created with the intent to decrease social isolation and forge connections between people that might not otherwise have had the opportunity to connect. Well Connected creates community through group sessions available over the phone that range in topic from book clubs and armchair travel to museum tours and garden talk. The program provides the opportunity to connect with others and talk or learn about a shared interest without ever stepping outside the home.

Social Call, a friendly visitor program, connects volunteers and participants for one-on-one meetings, either in person or over the phone. Participants and volunteers can discuss anything of interest as they forge bonds that combat social isolation. “Both volunteers and seniors are looking for social connections and Social Call is a conduit for that,” says Katie Wade, Director of Social Call. It’s easier to support social wellness with programs that simplify what is often the hardest part of social interaction, forging the initial connection.

Redefine Active

It can be easy to forget about all of the different aspects of wellness that contribute to overall health. Campaigns like Active Aging Week are dedicated to bringing these different yet important pieces to the forefront where they can be examined and adopted into daily life. As Alex Gerasimov, Life Enrichment Manager, notes “Aging is normal and a part of human evolution. By staying active along the aging journey, you will feel better, look younger, and improve your overall quality of life.”

Covia aims to support all of their residents, staff, and community members so that it is easier to incorporate each dimension of wellness into daily life. Happy Active Aging Week! Here’s to aging with purpose and a wider understanding of all that makes that possible.

Social isolation and loneliness affect approximately one-third to one-half of the older adult population, negatively impacting seniors’ physical and mental health. For 10 years, Covia has been addressing these issues through a no cost to participants friendly visitor program, now named Social Call. When it was founded, the program only provided in-person connections to people living in San Francisco. Today Social Call works to prevent isolation by connecting people across the country. To celebrate Social Call’s 10th anniversary, here are 10 things you may not know about this life-changing program:

  1. Social Call is one way Covia lives out its mission. Covia promotes positive aging by cultivating healthy and engaged communities with a continuum of innovative services that actively support people’s well-being. Although Covia is known primarily for its Senior Communities and Affordable Housing Communities, it also has an extensive Community Services department, including Well Connected, Market Day and Social Call. Social Call is a vital part of Covia’s mission to help people live well and age well – wherever they call home.
  2. Social Call is a way to create community with older adults. Director Katie Wade finds that Social Call’s visits create a sense of community that is often lost in today’s busy society. “Social Call honors our need for connection,” says Wade. Thanks to Social Call, 194 participants ranging in age from 54 to 102 have weekly one-on-one visits with a volunteer.
  3. A “Social Call” can be an in-person visit or a phone conversation. Phone visits eliminate the barriers of transportation and mobility, so Social Call program managers can create matches based on personalities and specific interests. Participant Illana shared “I had a really interesting conversation with Sreemoyi on Sunday. She has spent two years in the country where I was born and knows so much about my culture. Thank you for matching me with her. This seems to be the beginning of a great friendship.”
  4. Volunteers are carefully vetted. Whether it’s a student who wants to give back to the community or a newcomer to the area who desires a connection in the neighborhood, volunteers are screened, trained and matched with seniors living in their communities. During the training process, volunteers learn indicators of a healthy relationship and reminders about communication skills. Often, Social Call finds volunteers through word of mouth and community resources like the library or on VolunteerMatch.
  5. Matching seniors and volunteers is an art. Covia’s Program Managers review the list of people needing a visitor and align preferences such as age, personalities and language requirements. Volunteers and seniors meet weekly for one-on-one visits to swap stories or enjoy one another’s company. In-person visits last one to two hours and phone visits about half an hour. The nature of the visit depends on the match: discussing a variety of topics and events, sharing stories, playing cards, going out for a cup of coffee and much more.
  6. Social Call visits improve mental and physical health. Social connection affects health in a myriad of ways, for both volunteers and participants. One volunteer notes, “Anna has such a great sense of humor. We can talk about really heavy, painful things, and we can still have some good laughs. In fact, she left with me cracking up as we said goodbye. I feel very lucky to know Anna and have her as a friend. When I left, she said that she was suddenly feeling much improved health-wise. I must say though, I think our visits benefit me even more than they do her! Truly.”
  7. Reciprocation is the key. Social Call is based on the idea that the volunteer and participant both benefit from the visits, ensuring a reciprocal bond. Being present, finding appreciation for the aging process, and gaining wisdom from hours of conversation with someone older are just two of the benefits that volunteers experience. Participants and volunteers often feel energized by the visits where they can provide emotional support and impart insight or share stories. Says one Social Call volunteer: “We chat about everything under the sun. We share our memories; we laugh together and sometimes we cry a bit too. We share a deep bond. I know our talks have lifted her spirits and made my life better too.”
  8. All participants desire a sense of connection. Wade, a mental health therapist in her earlier career, has observed the rise in loneliness. Despite the many ways available to connect with one another, research shows that people are increasingly more lonely. Once considered a problem facing mainly older adults, Wade believes it’s clear loneliness is a society-wide problem stretching across age groups. “Both volunteers and seniors are looking for social connections and Social Call is a conduit for that,” Wade says.
  9. Social Call brings creativity into the conversation. Social Call is introducing creativity into visits to foster meaningful experiences. During training, volunteers learn about creative aging. Some matches choose to incorporate storytelling, painting, poetry and more into their weekly visits to promote creative exploration, which often provides a deeper connection.
  10. Social Call creates unexpected discoveries! You might hear of June’s experience growing up in Germany, or learn of Jerry’s leadership in LA’s alternative music scene. You might find a friend that you never would have come across in your daily life or rethink your view of aging. For 10 years, in connecting people with one another, Social Call has offered journeys of exploration and amazing discoveries. We look forward to more adventures ahead and invite you to join us!

If you’re interested in learning more about Social Call, visit us on VolunteerMatch, or call us today at 877-797-7299 for more information.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. The National Center on Elder Abuse created this information as a downloadable document.

Our communities are like buildings that support people’s wellbeing. Sturdy buildings ensure that people are safe and thriving at every age. We all have a part to play in this construction project. Here are 12 things everyone can do to build community supports and prevent elder abuse.

  1. Learn the signs of elder abuse and neglect and how we can collectively solve the issue.
  2. Talk to friends and family members about how we can all age well and reduce abuse with programs and services like improved law enforcement, community centers, and public transportation.
  3. Prevent isolation. Call or visit our older loved ones and ask how they are doing regularly.
  4. Send a letter to a local paper, radio or TV station suggesting that they cover World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) or Grandparents Day in September.
  5. Join Ageless Alliance, an organization that connects people of all ages, nationwide, who stand united for the dignity of older people and for the elimination of elder abuse. Visit agelessalliance.org
  6. Provide respite breaks for caregivers.
  7. Encourage our bank managers to train tellers on how to detect elder financial abuse.
  8. Ask our doctors to ask all older patients about possible family violence in their lives.
  9. Contact a local Adult Protective Services or Long-Term Care Ombudsman to learn how to support their work helping older people and adults with disabilities who may be more at-risk.
  10. Organize an “Aging with Dignity” essay or poster contest in a local school.
  11. Ask religious congregation leaders to give a talk about elder abuse at a service or to put a message about elder abuse in the bulletin.
  12. Volunteer to be a friendly visitor to a nursing home resident or to a homebound older person in our communities.

It is up to all of us to prevent and address elder abuse! For more information on elder abuse prevention, please visit ncea.acl.gov.

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.