The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

When Webster House resident Chet Frankenfield was growing up on the East Coast, he never dreamed that he would travel to Antarctica. His adventure started in 1956 when he was attending Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island and his commanding officer asked him if he would be interested in studying Aerology at the Postgraduate School in Monterey California. “All I heard was Monterey,” Frankenfield says; he didn’t even know what aerology was, but he jumped at the chance to go to California. He learned later that “it’s the Navy term for Meteorology” and when he got to Monterey he would be trained as a flight forecaster.

After he completed his yearlong training, Frankenfield moved back to the East Coast, where he was stationed in Patuxent River, Maryland. After a year in Maryland, a call went out for the next season in Antarctica. Frankenfield’s interest in Antarctica had been growing ever since he learned about the International Geophysical Year. As he notes, “it was one of the last places left on Earth that was not totally destroyed by tourists and was unexplored” and so he jumped at the chance.

The International Geophysical Year was a year and a half long worldwide study of the Earth that took place from July 1957 to December 1958. Most nations participated, building stations around the world, including in Antarctica. As Frankenfield notes, “this was the first time that they really included and had an extensive study of Antarctica,” including the effects of the massive ice cap on the rest of the world. His interest in Antarctica paid off and he was selected for the next season.

In Antarctica, Frankenfield had the opportunity to put his training to practical use, forecasting for flights between Christchurch, New Zealand and McMurdo station. Flight forecasting in Antarctica consisted of informing pilots of weather conditions, including wind speed and visibility, and telling them to turn back if conditions worsened. During the summer months, forecasts were also made for the helicopters and ski-equipped aircraft ferrying scientists, support personnel and supplies to research sites and outlying Antarctic stations.

After the runway, built on a frozen section of ice on McMurdo Sound, melted in early February, flights were discontinued. By mid-March, the last ship with the last of the summer personnel left; and the remaining 120 men began their seven months of isolation. Four of the months were in darkness, and the only personal communication with the rest of the world was by ham-radio.

Frankenfield maintained the McMurdo weather station 24 hours a day. He and his four-man wintering-over crew took weather readings and sent up weather balloons, which was quite an undertaking as it included blowing up the large balloon and tracking it so they could take hourly upper atmospheric readings.

He and his men decided on a strict twelve hours on, thirty-six hours off schedule, which Frankenfield says his men were not happy about at first but really appreciated by the end of the winter. Where other crews, such as some of the construction personnel who were tasked with rebuilding the runway come summer, had little to do over the winter, Frankenfield’s team’s steady schedule kept their minds working steadily with no time for boredom to set in.

Frankenfield worked the normal ten-hour seven day a week schedule. When he wasn’t working, he stayed busy by taking up a number of different hobbies from reading and playing chess to teaching math and learning oil painting. He even completed some, as he puts it, “fairly decent penguin pictures” though he gave them away to his fellow officers who wanted them for their kids.

McMurdo Station was only one mile from the abandoned hut of Robert Falcon Scott, the first British explorer to reach the pole, so Frankenfield explored the debris around the structure as the hut itself was filled with snow. He would look for any items from Scott’s stay and on one excursion, Frankenfield found two salt jars, which he kept as a souvenir for his sister. Years later when he visited the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch with his wife, he was surprised to find some of his salt jars on display.

But that wasn’t the biggest surprise from Frankenfield’s trip to Antarctica. About ten years ago, when he got a new iPad and tried Googling himself, he was surprised to learn that a glacier had been named after him without his knowledge. He wrote to the US Geological Survey and they confirmed that it was true, the Frankenfield Glacier was indeed named after him.

After his year in Antarctica and a short stint in New Zealand, Frankenfield had spent time aboard an icebreaker that was trying to penetrate the Bellingshausen Sea to reach a point of land that no ship had ever previously reached. Though the ship abandoned its goal when they received a distress signal from a Danish ship, they got close enough that Frankenfield and a couple of the crew were able to fly in and land. They set up a tiny weather station, which would inspire the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names to name the glacier after him.

After returning from Antarctica, Frankenfield got a job in computer programming. He was just out of the military and had no experience in the computer industry but during his interview at a company in Sunnyvale, he noticed a book about Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton on his interviewer’s desk. “We sat there and talked about Antarctica for an hour,” Frankenfield says “and I left and I knew I had the job.” He pursued work in computers for the next thirty years until he retired in the 1990s.

The biggest lesson that Frankenfield took away from his time in Antarctica was how to live with himself and to keep himself entertained. He was told by a psychiatrist during a pre-expedition interview that he was “going to be bored as hell” and so he became determined to keep busy. Along with the hobbies that he took up over the year, he learned how to be comfortable with himself and to be content in any setting. It’s a skill that he holds onto to this day along with all of the memories of his year in Antarctica.

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!”

If you are considering moving to a Senior Living Community – but not just yet – there’s another option available to you: joining a waiting list.

Too often, people start looking for senior living options after a need arises, leaving them scrambling for the first available option, even if it isn’t what they truly want. You may be thinking that a move to a Life Plan Community is something that will happen 2, 3, 5 or more years down the line. It’s still worth taking steps now so that when the time comes, you’ll get what you want.

Of course visiting in person is an important part of the process. Each community has a different personality. Getting to know a community, asking your questions, and meeting other residents makes it more likely you will choose a place that feels like home.

But if you’ve come to the event, taken the tour, and still think it’s not the right time to move, joining the community’s waiting list gives you the chance to consider the pros and cons while reserving your place for the residence you want.

“A waiting list is a terrific opportunity to secure your future plans without a large commitment of time or money,” says Linda McMenamin, Covia’s Senior Director of Sales and Marketing. “Often people will join wait lists at multiple communities to ensure they have options in the event their needs change and they are ready to make a move.”

Joining a waiting list at the community – or communities – of your choice has other benefits as well.

If you do decide to put down a deposit, be sure to ask how long the waiting list is for the home style you’d like, and what the expected waiting time is. Many times, larger homes have longer waiting lists, which may affect your plans. Talk with your senior living counselor about your plans and timeline and they will do their best to accommodate you.

Some communities may have a limit on the number of times you can turn down an apartment offered to you without losing your place on the waiting list. Although you are not obligated to accept a home presented to you, this may mean that eventually you won’t be the first person called.

But when you do get the call for the home you want, at the time you want it, you can feel comfort and confidence knowing the plan you’ve put in place is working as you hoped.

In January, Webster House welcomed Mehrad “Rod” Moshiri as its new executive director. He’s spent his first month getting to know the community, both staff and residents.

“The first thing that I think I noticed about Webster House is that people care,” he says. “From the line staff to upper management, everybody cares about the residents who live here, which is great. Everything else can be learned. People caring is something you either have it or you don’t.”

After emigrating to the Bay Area from Iran in 1988 at the age of 15, Rod attended San Jose State University, getting a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy. His first job was as an Occupational Therapist in a Skilled Nursing Facility in Alameda. After that, he moved to San Francisco where he worked first as a rehabilitation manager, then became a case manager and director of case management while at the same time earning his MBA. Meanwhile, he learned of an opportunity to enter an Administrator in Training program: “I applied, I got in, and got my Masters and became an Administrator at the same time.” After getting his Administrator’s license and MBA, Rod managed Skilled Nursing Facilities for about 16 years.

Because Rod’s prior experience has mostly been as the administrator of places like Webster House Health Center, one of his first goals is to get more exposure to the Independent Living side of the community. In his short time here so far, he’s visited the dining committee, the financial study group, and presented at his first Fireside Chat – an all-community update that happens monthly – as well as getting to know individual residents.

“We have the greatest residents,” he says. “They’re very welcoming. They’re very casual. They’re more than happy to converse with people that are interested and letting them know why they’re here,” such as the fact that they can walk half a block to get to downtown Palo Alto.

His first impression of Webster House Health Center, which provides rehabilitation services and skilled nursing, is that “for the size of the health center, it’s a smooth running operation. And that’s typically not achievable unless you have competent people in place. Room for improvement? Always. But looking at it from a global perspective, it’s a smooth-running operation.”

“Because I have the background and experience in the health center side, I would confidently tell people that the care they will receive here is by far much better than 85-90 percent of the skilled nursing facilities in the area,” he says.

Rod was drawn to the position because Webster House and Covia have a good reputation as an employer in the area of senior living. The Assistant Executive Director of St. Paul’s Towers, Maggie Youssef, and Rod had worked together previously and “she spoke very highly of the company,” Rod says. “I can tell you that everyone I have met so far has been great. And I do get emails saying, ‘Everything OK? Do you need anything?’ Knowing that I’m newer to the position, knowing that I may need something, they’re taking the first step to reach out to me before I reach out to them, which is wonderful.”

Being the Executive Director of a Life Plan Community is not an easy role to fill. “You need to be able to wear multiple hats. You need to be able to think on your feet. You need to be able to put out fires right away. And you need to be able to remember that you’re dealing with people’s lives,” Rod says. “It is a tough business. Different personalities, different challenges, different situations. That’s what’s tough about it.”

At the same time, “You can make a difference in people’s lives and well-being,” Rod notes. “What I like about it is that there are no two days that are the same. It never gets boring.”

Especially with so many interesting people around. “I love and welcome conversations. I live by the fact that I have an open-door policy. I invite people to come in and say hi to me in my office. I’m enjoying every day that I’m here and I’m learning a lot.”

This essay by Webster House resident Jim Lyons originally appeared in the December 2018 Webster House Newsletter.

It is money grubbing time again. Buy, buy, buy, and then buy more. For those of us who stress about what to buy, discombobulation can smash our frames of mind. Mettle is challenged. Yet it need not be that way. Here are some ways of giving that are guaranteed to please and leave your purse or wallet untouched. Rank and randy commercialism be damned! Embrace the wonders of giving simply. Curiously they are worth more than money could ever buy. They are fun for you too.

First. Make two phone calls per day to friends or family that you have not spoken with for a long time. This is personal and profound. It is not a mass-produced card. The personal touch is rarely practiced in this era of electronic babble. You too will be enveloped in the warmth and surprise of the call. If you don’t know the person’s phone number, it is easy to find and free. Ask me and I’ll teach you how to do it.

Second. Write three short hand-written notes daily for 30 days. The message need not be long. Just one sentence or phrase – just like on the $2 cards. Example: “I appreciate hearing your cheerful voice when I call. Thanks.” It’s the personal touch that does the trick. Such touches are scarce these days. A written note takes a minute or so to write. By the end of 30 days you will have brought some warmth into the lives of nearly 100 people! That’s a quiet antidote to the current climate where insults, blame saying, arrogance, and egotism seem to flourish unchallenged.

Third. Here’s some gifts for close friends and family. Write a simple story about an earlier experience, perhaps shared or perhaps not. Each of our apartments is full of things with stories. I’ve given some in my family treasured seasonal decorations along with stories about what our family was like when we used the decoration. I described some of the traditions and the circumstances of that earlier time. Scooter wrote a story about her family and the world during the year before each of her kids was born. Whew! What a treasure.

Think simple giving. That may just be our way to put the human spirit back into the holidays and to penetrate those thick bastions of religious traditions and beliefs.

This is a season when many faiths celebrate the good in us all. A leader of the Hasidic Jews observed: “Everyday life is hallowed, and each of us is responsible for the bit of existence that has been entrusted to our care.” Let’s keep the traditions of giving centered on people.

When Pat Lau, Activities Coordinator for Webster House in Palo Alto, first created the Healthy Connections program in 2016, she had no idea the kind of impact it would eventually have.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just have a little volunteer program. They can work with the residents, meet them, talk to them,’” she says. “But it evolved into so much more.”

Now in its third year, Healthy Connections partners with Stanford University’s Office of Undergraduate Advising to provide pre-med students with a setting to gain clinical experience as well as giving residents in the Health Center the personal connections that studies continue to show are beneficial to people’s health and well-being.

Webster House and its affiliated Health Center are located just a mile away from Stanford University. With physicians from Stanford and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation making rounds at the Health Center daily, the program offers valuable experience for students interested in exploring the medical field.

In addition, the program exposes pre-med students to the need for, and importance of, geriatrics as a medical specialty. According to the American Geriatric Society, 20,000 geriatricians are required to keep up with the need right now, and that need will only grow as the population ages. There are currently fewer than 7,300 certified geriatricians practicing nationwide.

Volunteers for the Healthy Connection program must spend a minimum of three hours each week with the residents and at least 100 clinical hours at the Health Center. “Most of the students, though, work well beyond the hundred hours and some have gone on to two hundred hours,” according to Lau.

Students must be 18 years old, pass a criminal background check, be screened for tuberculosis, and attend an in-depth orientation. “There’s a number of regulations and things they need to know about if they’re going to be in a health care setting and working with a vulnerable population such as older adults,” Lau explains, including the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), patient rights, elder abuse, infection control, and safety procedures.

So far, 12 students have participated in the program. Four of the 12 students who have been through the program have been accepted to medical school.

“Everyone seemed to benefit,” Lau says. “The student was exposed to a clinical environment, but most of all, there was a very strong, caring, and reliable relationship.”

Healthy Connections recently received a Sereno Group 1% For Good grant from the Palo Alto office. 1% for Good provides grants to local organizations that are active in improving our communities. Sereno Group Palo Alto will be supporting Healthy Connections from July through September 2018.

Brian Chancellor from the Sereno Group says, ““We were intrigued and touched by the inter-generational experience between the students and the residents. It’s exciting to support them all in their care and cultivation of such a relationship when it is so greatly needed and appreciated.”

As the new school year begins at Stanford, students can anticipate another benefit of participating in the Healthy Connections program: Dr. Peter Pompei, a professor at the Stanford Medical School, general internist and geriatrician with 20 years of clinical experience, will serve as the program’s medical director, providing mentorship and support for the students.

But it’s the relationships built between the residents and students that most impresses Lau. “These students really help support these older adults. They improve the quality of their lives. And for me, I can’t tell you what I feel when I see some of these individuals smile.”

For more information on the Healthy Connections program, please contact Pat Lau at plau@covia.org.