The shelter-in-place order means that many of us are adapting to new schedules and finding new ways to keep ourselves busy. Webster House residents, including one feline resident, are sharing their new routines and how they have adapted.
My two-room cave with balcony has several activity centers.
Dining Table: Read morning NY Times (2 hrs.) and magazines, open and discard mail, seating area for TV, eating.
Balcony: Portable camping barbecue, occasional steaks or salmon.
Computer Desk: Check email, compose responses, delete spam, read Microsoft News, look at cartoons, open abstracts more detail, review financial data, color edit old travel slides (default activity).
Garden Room (low bench at bay window): Some 22 miniature orchids live in a vivarium (plastic storage box), grow-lights above and algae sludge swamp pond below. A daily mist spray and checking for flowers takes about ten minutes a day. On the bench, in room conditions, is an African vine with a new 8-inch growth tendril, seeking a twig to wind around. Before it finds its twig, a hair clip will attach it to a circular frame – a very occasional event for this.
Quiet. Staying at home is peaceful, with time to think, to meditate even. No need to be sociable, or to go to meetings. No need to dress appropriately. But visiting my little balcony is no substitute for walking freely outside. I miss our exercise classes, and swimming.
By the time we are released from sheltering-in-place, I will most likely have had more than enough of this nice quiet. For now, I am enjoying rereading the first two of Hilary Mantel’s books on Thomas Cromwell and looking forward to starting her recently published final volume.
Judy & Dave C.
We’re reading posts from our grand dog.
I am doing fine and determined not to get depressed. Rainstorm was needed and welcome, and now the sunshine is pouring in my window and I’m listening to my jazz station. A good lunch in the apartment, thanks to our great cooks and servers.
The view from our apartments is a huge help in combatting “I’m trapped” syndrome – trees and sky in an ever-changing panorama. I loved last night’s rolling bar.
Also, I’ve been walking. One Palo Alto walk near Webster House is:
San Francisquito Creek
San Francisquito Creek is the dividing line between Palo Alto and Menlo Park – a placid little trickle of water until it occasionally goes wild and inundates whole neighborhoods, causing a great deal of property damage. Walking up Palo Alto Avenue you will find several small grassy clearings where you can peer through the undergrowth and see the creek meandering over rocks between sandbagged banks. Where Palo Alto Ave. joins Alma Street at the rail crossing there is a small park with a footpath that leads to a pedestrian bridge over the creek and into Menlo Park. Follow the path to read signage about the history and ecology of the creek, the wildlife that is being restored, the people who lived here before us and El Palo Alto, the redwood tree that our city is named for. Crossing over the creek, you can turn right onto East Creek Drive and walk back along the creek through a neighborhood of older ranch homes with pretty gardens and whimsical sculptures. Continue right onto Willow Road toward Middlefield. Look for the signs for the pedestrian bridge that will take you back across the creek close to Waverley Street. Don’t miss the owl box suspended over the bridge, and the pig sculpture at the corner of Waverley and Ruthven! Turn right on Cowper and you will find yourself in front of Colette. At this writing they are still doing take-out.
Magnus the Magnificat graciously agreed to record his impressions of containment:
“Life for me is pretty good. My human has to stay home so there are many opportunities for pets, cuddles, scritches, and lots of snacks. I need yowl but once to prompt my lowly handmaiden to hop up and accede to my every whim. I still get to go outside on my patio any time I care to. Finally, I am getting my due.”
During this time as we shelter-in-place, it can be helpful to remember all of the things we can be thankful for and the positives that surround us. Sunshine coming in the windows. Rain that is nourishing the spring flowers. A good book. Technology that allows us to connect to loved ones even as we stay home. What small things are brightening your day and bringing you joy?
Our residents and staff give back to the greater community all year round, but in this season of sharing, this generosity takes on special meaning.
St. Paul’s Towers started off the season by surprising Oakland’s First Responders with baked goods and treats for Thanksgiving as well as personalized notes thanking them for their work. “It’s important to remember those who cannot spend the holidays with their loved ones which is why we always look forward to doing something special for our first responders,” says Life Enrichment Director Connie Yuen. “Residents really enjoy decorating cookies or writing notes to be given away and our staff enjoy personally thanking those who put their lives on the line for our community.”
Also in Oakland, Carolyn Bolton, Covia’s Director of Senior Resources for Alameda County, organized a fabulous Thanksgiving meal delivery for 200 older adults from Oakland to San Francisco! Staff members from Covia Well Connected, Covia Home Match, and the Covia Foundation were there to help stuff all the goodie bags. They even got to say hello to one of our newest Home Match San Francisco participants, Nora, who volunteered for the event. Carolyn and her team, including Katharine Miller, Executive Director of the Covia Foundation, returned at Christmas to deliver 210 dinners to isolated seniors.
In Palo Alto, Webster House hosts an annual bake sale with the proceeds going to a community cause. This year, the funds went to Pets in Need, a local non-profit organization that runs two no-kill shelters in Santa Clara County. “In addition to the bakery items, the senior residents donated their hand-made jewelry, and one talented staff member baked fancy dog biscuits for the pets,” according to Pat Lau, Webster House Activity Coordinator. The bake sale raised $700 for Pets In Need.
For the past 15 years, Spring Lake Village staff members have taken on the role of Santa for children in Sonoma County through an annual toy drive. “It is something very special to our community,” says Liz Green, Director of Programs & Transportation. “This truly shows the character of our staff. Many buy not just one toy per child, but often times two or three. We used to do 25 tags, but have increased it to 35 in recent years because of the popularity. All 35 requests have been met by our staff!”
Our communities are always looking for new ways to give back. San Francisco Towers hosted its first ever blood drive just two days before Christmas. Coordinated by San Francisco Towers Life Enrichment Director, Megan Sullivan, the Vitalant Bloodmobile arrived at SFT at 10am on December 23rd. During the blood drive, which ran from 10am to 2pm, they collected 12 pints of blood with donations from staff and residents, including night shift nurse Jessa Chatto who came in just for the occasion!
“Having been a regular blood donor for 30 years, it was important to me to bring this opportunity to our residents,” says Sullivan. “Giving blood is one of the greatest gifts we can share with others, but it also gives us feelings of accomplishment, value and meaning. Our residents were grateful for the opportunity to be needed and have purpose. And they’re already signing up for the next one!”
All of us at Covia know that feeling of accomplishment, value, and meaning that comes from paying it forward and giving to others. We’re glad to know we have been able to make a difference in many lives, and we look forward to bringing more joy to the world around us in 2020!
The holidays are in full swing at Covia! Each community and program have their unique way of celebrating the season, from fun decorations and holiday parties to annual traditions and special events.
Webster House & Webster House Health Center
At Webster House Health Center, the lobby is always decked out in a particular theme for the holiday season. Last year, it was Grinchmas and this year the lobby is filled with Santa’s Workshop and gingerbread buildings. A large tree with swooping red ribbons and stocked with elegantly wrapped presents finishes off the festive display.
Elsewhere in the center, residents and staff have been practicing their Christmas carols, preparing for the holiday concerts that will take place on the different floors. Webster House chaplain, Lily Godsoe notes “this is a long standing tradition at the Health Center and the residents in particular are excited about it.”
Webster House Independent Living has been adding in new traditions along with established favorites. A Christmas tree and menorah dedication led by the chaplain was a new way to ring in the season, with residents gathering in the lobby to admire the elegant display that features an angel topper and poinsettia accents.
Over the December months, the tree has been looking over a growing pile of toys, collected for the San Francisco 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto. December is a giving time at Webster House from the toy drive to the annual bake sale put on by Webster House, Webster House Health Center, and Lytton Gardens. Treats are baked by residents and staff as well as donated by local restaurants. Each year, the bake sale proceeds are donated to a local charity. This year’s charity is Pets in Need, a local rescue that also brings dogs to the Webster House Health Center and Lytton Garden communities to meet with the residents.
Resident Service Coordinators
Covia Resident Service Coordinators connect residents to vital services at affordable communities throughout the Bay Area and Southern California. Traditions at many of these communities center on potlucks and parties where residents can socialize and share in the festive season. RSC Jennifer Wright at Redwood Shores will be celebrating with a Black and White themed party. She notes “we want to continue the tradition of doing a theme party as it gives residents a chance to dress up.”
Sunny View West in Cupertino will join in a potluck with the neighboring Sunny View Manor community where residents and their families can get together and celebrate the season. They’ll sing hymns together and participate in festive activities on top of sharing a delicious meal.
San Francisco Towers
The Christmas Circus Wagon was inspired by a resident’s ornament and the hard work of a couple of residents that brought the ornament to life but full size. The wagon hosts miniature amusement park rides, buildings, a moving train, and miniature people and trees enjoying the scene. It’s a welcome sight in the SFT lobby and if you’d like more information on its construction and inspiration, please read our blog post from last year dedicated to its history.
The holiday house is a new addition to the decorations this year. A homemade dollhouse, lovingly created for Olivia Guthrie by her father, the holiday house is decorated for the season. Its doors stand open so that visitors can look through each room of the house and even watch Santa and his reindeer up on the rooftop.
Restored and refinished, the furniture and a majority of the miniatures are from the period the dollhouse was created: 1938. The house resembles Colonials in the suburbs of Chicago, even including an Illinois flagstone around the front. It features festive decorations inside and out as the holiday house residents celebrate right alongside the residents of San Francisco Towers.
Olivia Guthrie hopes that the house will bring back “pleasant memories of holidays past.”
The holidays are the sweetest time of year at Support Services. The annual cookie exchange was a hit with treats ranging from brownies and eggnog cookies to lemon cheesecake bars and chocolate crinkles. Participants got to take home a full Tupperware of the delicious sweets to share with family and friends.
The culmination of holiday celebrations at Support Services is the potluck, white elephant gift exchange, and ugly Christmas sweater contest. A full spread of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts are enjoyed by staff decked out in their most eccentric holiday attire. The celebration culminates with the white elephant gift exchange. This year saw incredible participation with 37 wrapped gifts that ranged from blankets and candles to an elegant bread slicer, board games, and chocolates. Everyone went home with a smile on their face and a new trinket or treat.
St. Paul’s Towers
At St. Paul’s Towers, a full array of holiday décor, programs, and services make the community feel particularly festive. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, visiting clergy from different denominations of Christianity perform a weekly Advent service full of hymns and celebrations of the Advent season.
Resident and staff led Christmas tree decorating gives everyone the chance to deck the halls, while later in the month, cookie decorating celebrates the sweeter side of the season.
During the eight nights of Chanukah, St. Paul’s Towers chaplain, Rabbi Meredith Cahn, and residents hold a nightly Chanukiah lighting, sing, share memories and blessings, and tell stories to celebrate the holiday. On one evening, they will share “latkes and other treats to remember the food.”
St. Paul’s Tower’s Program Coordinator, Connie Yuen, says, “We always have a great energy at SPT, but during the holidays, the feeling is extra special. From the way we greet one another to the exchange of hugs and high fives, there is a lot of love in the building.”
During this jolly time of year, full of festivities and traditions, all of us at Covia would like to wish you and yours a bright and merry holiday season.
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.
- Reduce anxiety: “Most people benefit from being on a list because the opportunity to move often coincides with changes in health, lifestyle or living situation,” McMenamin notes. You no longer need to worry whether you have a place in line when you are ready to move. With most of the preliminary paperwork completed, you know you’re pre-approved.
- Take your time: “Being on the waiting list allows you the freedom to explore your options at your own pace, without time constraints or pressure to make a decision,” says McMenamin. You can use the time you are on the waiting list to think through what’s important to you and to put other parts of your plan in place.
- Build connections: As a waiting list member you will be invited to special events, allowing you to get to know a community even better. “Often times wait list members can join the fitness center, attend activities and join residents and future neighbors for meals,” McMenamin observes. When you do move in, it will be a much more familiar place that’s a lot easier to call home.
- Priority access: When an apartment opens up that matches your preference, we’ll call to let you know. Our waiting list applicants receive priority for any new inventory. “Having that plan in place gives you the flexibility to say yes when you are ready to make a move,” says McMenamin.
- No obligation: Just because you’re on the waiting list doesn’t mean you are required to move in. “There’s no risk and the financial cost is usually very minimal,” says McMenamin. If you decide a community isn’t for you, your fee is fully refundable.
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 email@example.com.