Covia, Well Connected, and Well Connected Español will host the fourth annual Creative Aging Symposium on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 9:00-11:30 PST. This virtual event invites older adults to explore and celebrate identity through a creative aging lens, with keynote speakers that include a CEO, professors of psychology and religious studies, storytellers, multi-media artists, and more.
The Creative Aging Symposium counters the commonly held belief that creativity is only the province of the young. Co-organizer Katie Wade says, “Older age presents a unique time for creative growth, should we choose to explore ourselves and community through the lens of imagination, adaptation, and innovation.”
This year, for the first time, the symposium will be presented in English and in Spanish simultaneously. Lizette Suarez, Program Director for Well Connected Español, says, “We are incredibly excited to widen the reach of this event by organizing it 100% in Spanish. Aging is a universal topic and we are thrilled to introduce the Creative Aging concept to the Spanish speaking community.” Closed captions will also be available, and audio descriptions of visual content will be provided for those with vision loss.
Keynote speakers for the 2021 Creative Aging Symposium include EngAGE founder Tim Carpenter, multidisciplinary artists Gabri Christa and Mabel Valdiviezo, photographer S. Renee Jones, psychologists Dr. Angélica Ojeda García and Dr. Ricardo Carillo, and poet Gregory Pond. Topics include how identity is shaped by community, how one’s sense of self evolves over a lifetime, and how people make meaning out of life’s joys, tragedies, and everyday moments.
Though many of the speakers explore creativity in their jobs and hobbies, the event planners assure attendees that they do not need to identify as creative or artistic. “Through creative demonstrations, interactive experiences, and inspiring voices, you will discover new insights into the distinct gifts you bring to the world.”
The Creative Aging Symposium is hosted by the Covia Community Services programs Well Connected Español and Well Connected, and older adults active in our programs.
For more information, including speakers and schedule, visit www.creativeagingsymposium.org or call 877-797-7299.
During a recent webinar, Covia leadership gathered with prospective residents to give insight into management and operations at Covia. The webinar panel included Mary McMullin, Chief Strategy and Advancement Officer; Diana Jamison, Chief Financial Officer; Ron Schaefer, Chief Operating Officer; and Mary Linde, St. Paul’s Towers Executive Director. Katharine Miller of the Covia Foundation moderated the discussion.
The webinar offered prospective residents the opportunity to ask questions about what is currently going on at Covia from a leadership perspective, including COVID-19 preparation, the upcoming affiliation, and adapting to socially distanced activities. Part 1 about Covia’s response to COVID-19 is below. Part 2 about the affiliation can be found here.
Covia has approached the COVID-19 pandemic both from a community standpoint as well as system-wide. At the community level, Mary Linde, Executive Director at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, detailed how St. Paul’s prepared after hearing about COVID-19.
“When I first learned on January 20th that COVID-19 had hit Kirkland [Washington], we immediately brought our leadership team together to say ‘That’s two states up. How do we get ready for this migrating down here?’” Linde notes. “By January 27th, we had restricted outside visitation for travelers who had travelled out of the country to those tier 3 countries. And then progressively, through the month of February and by mid-March, we started sheltering in place.”
When California Governor Gavin Newsom shut down all but essential businesses, Linde says, “we looked at St. Paul’s Towers as though it were itself a village: What are the businesses that operate within this village, which of those are essential, and how do we carry those out safely?” She explains that initially care giving and meals were the essential businesses for St. Paul’s. With in-person dining not permitted, “we said, how do we do takeout at St. Paul’s Towers?” The team wrote guidelines for how to do safe takeout. “We set up two separate takeout staging areas in our community and we designated times for people to come at meals so we wouldn’t have crowding.”
From a system-wide perspective, Covia established a COVID-19 task force that met daily initially and now three times a week. Ron Schaefer, Covia’s Chief Operating Officer, who heads up the task force, explains that its role is to “keep in touch with the health directives that are coming from different locations and provides advisories to our communities to help the Executive Directors make sure that nothing gets by them that they need to know.” The taskforce also provides guidance around the evolving best practices for infection control and testing and ensures that each location has the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed.
Even with visiting restrictions in place, prospective residents can connect with a community during this time.
“If you are interested in a particular community, we encourage you to reach out and talk to people at that community,” says Mary McMullin, Chief Strategy and Advancement Officer. Community marketing teams are all ready to do a virtual tour that meets your needs, including walking you through the community, creating a special video with your specific interests in mind, and video conferencing.
The marketing team can also connect you “with residents who are living at the community and you can talk to them,” McMullin highlights. Another great option is the community Facebook pages, which post updates and photos about what is going on. They can provide great insight into what events are taking place as well as what precautions the community is taking.
All communities have embraced new ways to stay connected, adapting programming so that residents have a full schedule of activities. Linde shares that St. Paul’s Towers is “doing a lot of activities through the in-house television, like exercises and cooking classes where they deliver ingredients to apartments and residents can follow along on the in-house channel or on Zoom.” The St. Paul’s Towers chaplain has also transitioned her programming to Zoom for book discussions and more. “We do a happy hour on Zoom every Tuesday night,” Linde notes. “It’s such a gift of connection.” St. Paul’s Towers has also created an ice cream truck complete with a signature jingle that delivers ice cream and treats to residents in their apartments. Linde says “If the residents ask for it, we are really trying to find a way to do it.”
Covia also offers connection programs that are accessible to everyone, utilized by residents in Covia communities as well as the wider public. Well Connected provides a full catalog of sessions that are available over the phone or online and are completely free. Sessions cover everything from arts and yoga to armchair travel and wellness. The current catalog of sessions is available here. For connecting one-on-one, Social Call matches older adult participants with volunteers for weekly meetings over the phone. Participants enjoy talking with others from the comfort of their home and these weekly meetings go a long way toward fostering the connections that social distancing has proven are a crucial part of wellness.
Although the challenges of responding to COVID-19 are real, Covia is still finding new and positive ways to make healthy communities, build connections, and stay engaged.