It was through a student internship that Katherine Smith, Covia’s Director of Social Services, became interested in working with older adults. As she worked towards her Bachelor’s of Social Work degree at Cal State Los Angeles, “when it came time to pick an internship and where we’re going to be going, my first choice was to work with kids.” She didn’t get her first choice. Instead, she ended up in a gerontology internship. “I’m like, what is gerontology? But then I fell in love with it.”
So it made sense to her to promote an internship program partnering with Covia’s Resident Service Coordinators to encourage a new generation of social workers.
Covia has been offering internships for the past 5 years, associated with USC’s Davis School of Gerontology and CSULA; this fall, they have launched a new partnership with the Social Work department at San Jose State University.
“Before we have an intern at our sites, we want to make sure we’re going to be a good fit for them and they’ll be a good fit for us,” says Shannon Wetters, Lead Resident Service Coordinator at Emerson Village in Pomona. “Are they looking for administrative work? Are they looking for management research? Or are they interested in actually working one on one with older adults? If their goal is to work with older adults, if that’s their true passion, then here at Emerson, they are a perfect fit.”
Interns spend 20 to 24 hours per week working with residents. Due to COVID-19, some of the work is now done remotely, but the Covia team ensures that the interns still get the experience they’re looking for. At Emerson Village, the intern is setting up phone visits with residents, or meet at an appropriate distance from residents in Wetters’ large office while she listens to the interaction, sitting in the hallway.
Pamela Ogawa-Boon, Lead Resident Service Coordinator at Lytton Gardens in Palo Alto, is supervising her first intern this fall. A Masters of Social Work student at San Jose State working toward her certificate in gerontology, Alanah Rosembloom will spend 24 hours per week assisting residents at Lytton Gardens as well as at Shires Memorial Center in San Jose. As a first time mentor, Ogawa-Boon is looking forward to bouncing ideas back and forth with someone eager to be part of the process of serving seniors. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” she says.
The influence of the internship program has reached far beyond Covia’s communities. In addition to the work these interns have done in communities where Covia has Resident Service Coordinator contracts, they have taken what they’ve learned to the communities – and countries – they call home.
Wetters has mentored interns from all over the world, providing experience for students from China, Mexico, and currently South Korea. Wetters shares that her current intern Seungjae Lee, whose family owns a nursing home, “wants to be able to take a lot of the knowledge he’s getting here and take it back to his family. Additionally, he wants to start educating the younger population, teaching them how to prepare their loved ones for the aging process.”
“They’re learning a lot here and they want to take it back there and start something new that they don’t have in their country right now,” says Wetters. She shares that her intern from Mexico five years previously “had no idea if she’d even want to work with older adults but it turned out she really found a passion for it.” As a result, “she was hoping to take this information that she gleaned and take it back to Mexico and start teaching family and friends and then hopefully develop a business from that.”
“A lot of people don’t know about service coordination,” Wetters continues. “I didn’t know about it until I went to the University of La Verne, and there was an informational meeting and I thought, I want to do that.”
As a result of Covia’s internship program, still more people are discovering or deepening their passion and skill for working with older adults.
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!”