The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

Social distancing may mean that we can’t be physically close but there are still plenty of ways to connect with each other and the outside world while staying safe at home. Technology can keep us connected to our family and current events but there are also ways to create new social connections during this time. Programs like Social Call, Well Connected, and Ruth’s Table provide opportunities to join insightful discussions, connect one on one, and experience art all while sheltering in place.

 

Connect One on One

Social Call pairs older adult participants with volunteers for one on one conversations. Matches meet for 30 minutes every week over the phone. It’s a great opportunity to meet someone new and it’s “a tangible way to alleviate pain in our world,” says Social Call Director Katie Wade.

Matches connect over their shared interests or backgrounds and often teach each other new things. “I’ve learned about delighting in the present,” says one Social Call volunteer, while another notes that “I always learn beneficial things from my match – especially relating to growing flowers.”

Social Call is actively seeking volunteers and participants and it’s easy to get started. Individuals interested in volunteering can get started on VolunteerMatch and older adults looking to participate can get in touch by calling (877) 797-7299 or emailing coviaconnections@covia.org.

 

Join a New Community

Looking for an inclusive community where you can participate in caring conversations, learn new things, and even travel to different countries without leaving your home? Well Connected offers easily accessible sessions over the phone that range from writing groups and guided meditation to armchair travel and museums at home. Amber Carroll, Well Connected Director, notes “COVID-19 or not, these programs provide a unique opportunity to connect with others from the comfort of home.”

Well Connected sessions are free and available in both English and Spanish. Check out what sessions are currently being offered in the Well Connected and Well Connected Español catalogs. Enrolling is as easy as calling (877) 797-7299.

 

Send a Card

In addition to staying connected over the phone or online, Social Call and Well Connected are currently creating snail mail connections as well. Both programs are looking for volunteers who are willing to send cards to brighten participants’ mailboxes. It’s as easy as having a handful of postcards and a pen. Volunteers have been sharing everything from a quick note of encouragement to sketches of what they have been doing while social distancing.

Interested in sending a card? Check out VolunteerMatch to get started.

 

Visit a Museum Virtually

Ruth’s Table is an art space and gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco that hosts exhibits and art programming. Though in-person art programming and classes are currently closed to keep the community safe, Ruth’s Table is offering a virtual tour of their current exhibition Echoes of the New Vision through Well Connected on March 25th from 11am to 12pm PST.

Curator Hanna Regev will provide an in-depth tour of the exhibit and the facilitator will include verbal descriptions for those with low vision. Explore how Bauhaus ideas have impacted photography and photo-based art from the comfort of your home over the phone or through your computer. To learn more and register, email contact@ruthstable.org

 

Staying Connected

During this time, it is important to remember all of the ways that we are connected even when we are physically distant. Reaching out to someone that you care about or creating a new connection can be a great way to remind oneself that though we’re all staying in our personal spaces, we’re still participating in the same shared world.

Happy Employee Appreciation Day! We are so excited to celebrate all of the amazing people who help Covia support older adults around the Bay Area and beyond. In honor of this holiday, we were inspired to share stories about our incredible employees from throughout the organization.

Community Services

Lizette Suarez, Well Connected Español Program Manager

Lizette came to WCE without having ever worked with older adults, but her humor, energy, dedication, passion, and skills leave me believing that she was the only person for the job.  As a one-woman team for the first year, she made our fantasy of diversifying Well Connected a robust reality and has successfully created a virtual community for nearly 100 older adults living across 5 states!

Amber Carrol, Director of Well Connected

Rita Mukhsinova, Ruth’s Table Manager

Rita implements gallery exhibits and events of incredibly high quality, which challenges preconceptions of senior living communities. A Bethany Center resident recently commented that a gallery lecture, “was so intellectual and stimulating. Sometimes people think that just because you’re older you won’t get it. The whole gallery and its programming is so intriguing.”

Katie Wade, Director of Social Call

Resident Service Coordination

Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos in Redondo Beach for her hard work and dedication. Kristy went above and beyond with coordinating IWISH (Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing) programs by herself after her partner RWD moved to another site. In spite of the difficult situation, Kristy has been doing an awesome job balancing health presentations, exercise programs, social workshops, art therapy classes and more while managing it all on her own. She kept her professionalism and still manages to serve residents with a great smile.  I am grateful and appreciate her willingness to go the extra miles.

Sarah Choi, Lead Resident Service Coordinator

Covia Communities

Elvyra Abare, Canterbury Woods Executive Director, and Wei Chang, Canterbury Woods Transportation Manager

The incident/accident I experienced on January 21st on the way to a Covia meeting in Walnut Creek re-affirmed the correct decision I made about entering the Canterbury Woods community. Elvyra, the CW Director, finding me bleeding profusely, took charge and her calm voice and clear directions soothed my state of mind and prevented me from over-reacting. She treated me like I was her mother and that had a profound effect on my perspective of the situation. Where could I find such support in a moment of distress? Canterbury Woods of course…

And Wei, the transportation manager, who had to revise his driving plans because I did not heed to his rules about getting in the limousine, and who understands so well the flaws of human nature. Wei is a master at decision-making, is a compassionate human being and surprised me when I came out of E.R. Wei was there waiting for me and worried about my nutritional needs. Wei easily combined his responsibilities with the CW group he was driving to the Covia meeting and giving me his caring attention. Wei is a multi-tasking man with a heart. Thank you both, Elvyra and Wei.

Canterbury Woods Resident

San Francisco Towers Staff

Thank you! We have just been through an ordeal that I would have had difficulty managing if not for our staff at the SFTowers.

One morning, I heard my husband calling for me. I found him lying in a pool of blood in our hallway near the front door. I called Security and when someone arrived he wisely called our 2nd floor. Two Skilled Nursing staff took my husband’s vitals and called for an ambulance. At the hospital, we found he had dislocated his shoulder.

When we arrived back at SFT, our front desk called for a wheelchair to get us to our apartment. Almost immediately Grace Tom from Resident Health Services, an angel, arrived and took over. She organized everything, meals delivered that day, assistance, doctors orders to the PT people, and for our new doctor to make a house call. Dr. Aissatou Haman came to our apartment and scheduled my husband to see an orthopedic doc and have x-rays done.

While the above was happening, Troy Stewart, Housekeeping Manager, sent someone up to clean up the blood residue I had missed on the floor and the walls. Thank you to our staff for everything. We are most grateful for the care and attention we received in our hour of need. Everyone here knew what to do and did it.

San Francisco Towers Resident

Support Services

Accounts Payable Team

In our Finance Department, Accounts Payable is responsible for making sure that every invoice gets paid, and Deanna Garcia and Stephanie Canady are an amazing team. Every once in a while you get lucky and find an employee that is a quiet constant, always comes to work on time, hardly every misses a day of work and is dedicated to doing a great job.  Deanna is that person! Stephanie is one of those people that is dedicated to not only doing her job well, but she also makes work fun!  I really appreciate her quick witted humor!  She makes me laugh and smile no matter what problem we are trying to solve.

Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources

Grant Edelstone, Senior Director of Risk Management, Compliance & Risk

Grant is one of those people that you can always count on.  He always gives solid, well thought-out advice and is never too busy to lend a hand. I appreciate his calm, professional approach.

Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources

The stories mentioned display only a fraction of the hard work and dedication that Covia employees bring to their job every single day. Thank you to everyone who supports our organization. You are a valued part of our team! 

* Some of these stories have been edited to protect resident’s privacy.

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!”

Download the full Annual Report with financial reports for FY 2019 here.

Looking back over the past months, I can say with great confidence that it has been a year full of progress. Some of it came from the momentum started in 2018 by the unified Covia brand, while other aspects have resulted from a strong strategic focus and our willingness to make difficult decisions. I can proudly say that we are positioned for a future where we can help more seniors live well and age well no matter where they call home.

In February, the Covia Communities Board made the difficult decision to close one of our communities — Los Gatos Meadows. We have long had a goal to redevelop this community to better support the needs of our residents. As we began our evaluation of this long-term plan, we uncovered some safety issues at the campus that accelerated our timeline. Since arriving at the decision, our focus has been on supporting and relocating the residents and fulfilling our commitment to our staff. Soon we will begin the preliminary work of redevelopment. We are committed to staying in Los Gatos with a reimagined approach to community living.

Our year-end financial results as of March 31, 2019, show continued stability and strength as outlined in the audit results in this report. This has been further reinforced by the reaffirmation of our A- rating with a stable outlook from Fitch. Even with the one-time costs for the closure of Los Gatos Meadows, Fitch recognized the operational consistency and strength we continue to demonstrate. Their confidence is a strong signal for a bright future.

One of the important commitments we are making as we move into the future is technology. Over the past year, we have continued to implement software platforms that help us improve the services we provide. From a more efficient electronic health record system, to a new human resource information system, to a refined customer relationship management system, we have invested to create solutions for our residents and employees alike.

And it was our employees that achieved one of our greatest accomplishments this past year. We were once again named a Great Place to Work. Because this certification is based wholly on employee feedback, it says a lot about the success of the efforts we have been making. I am thrilled that our team members throughout Covia, from Support Services to every community and program, feel engaged and committed in helping us fulfill our mission. They are the heart and essence of what we do and how we can make a difference.

Expanding the number of people that we touch was also a core focus over the past year. From high occupancy at our communities to signing a management contract for Friends House, a Life Plan Community in Santa Rosa, to increasing participation in our Well Connected program and launching Well Connected Español, we are involving more seniors. Add to that Home Match launching in other geographies and making ever more shared housing matches, and the measures of progress are truly profound.

We also piloted a meaningful sustainability initiative started by our residents — CoviaGreen. The brainchild of the Green Action committee at St. Paul’s Towers, CoviaGreen involves a pledge by residents and staff to live more sustainably and consider elements of environmental justice in our community planning. The program is slated to roll out to all of our communities and programs in the coming year.

From financial progress to community progress to progress for the environment, this past year has been one of commitment, engagement, and forward movement. I am grateful to the Covia staff, our leadership team, and our Boards for all that we have accomplished this year. Together we have established an incredibly strong foundation for progress and growth.

Kevin Gerber

 

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Between September 15th and October 15th, America celebrates Hispanic heritage and all that those with Hispanic roots have contributed to our nation. Mexico’s Independence Day, paired with the anniversary of independence for multiple Latin American countries on September 15th, kicks off this month long celebration. (Mexican Independence is often mistakenly believed to be Cinco de Mayo, and not the actual date: September 16th.)

Hispanic Heritage Month is especially important as an opportunity to recognize Hispanic older adults, who currently constitute 8 percent of the older population nationwide, one-quarter of them living in California.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Covia is celebrating Well Connected Español, our community service program that supports Spanish speaking older adults. Well Connected offers phone-based and online activities for older adults anywhere in the US and with Well Connected Español, these offerings also promote Hispanic heritage and arts. Sessions like Lotería, Encuentrame en la Cocina (Find Me in the Kitchen), and Poesía de Otros Tiempos (Poetry from Other Times) allow participants to partake in games and conversations tied to their Latinx roots.

Poesía de Otros Tiempos celebrates Spanish poetry through the work of Gil Saenz while inviting participants to bring their own poems to share. As the session’s description highlights, the group is centered on poetry’s ability to heal the body and soul while also being challenging and inspiring. By choosing a Hispanic poet, the session discusses poetry that will distinctly connect to its participants’ experience.

Lotería, on the other hand, translates a popular Mexican game to a form that can connect people over the phone. Lotería, also called Mexican bingo, is similar to American Bingo except that participants mark off images on a grid instead of numbers. Like with bingo, images are called once and participants can win depending on completing a predetermined pattern on their board. An exciting aspect of Lotería is that it’s a fun game that is fully functional over the phone, making it a perfect session for Well Connected Español. Join Lotería during their next session on September 25th at 4:00pm PDT by calling (877) 400-5867 and requesting your free Lotería card.

Beyond these sessions that specifically address Hispanic heritage, the entire Well Connected Español catalog provides opportunities to connect with older adults that speak Spanish and every session is tailored to address Hispanic culture and roots.

This month provides the opportunity to not only celebrate Hispanic culture but also to reflect on its impact on our country, community, and personal lives. Michael Cueva, Well Connected Español Administrative Coordinator, notes, “As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month, I am thankful to my community for making me who I am. I thank my parents who struggled very hard, leaving their homeland to come to the U.S., where they worked very hard to give my sisters and me the life and opportunities we have today. I am proud of being Latino and of having the opportunity to give back to my community.”

Over the next 30 days, consider how you can celebrate Hispanic culture and its positive impact on all of our lives and follow along on the Well Connected Español and Covia Facebook pages for further celebrations.

Interview with/Entrevista con Lizette Suarez, Program Manager/Coordinadora de Programa Well Connected Español

To learn more about Well Connected Español, visit our webpage at https://covia.org/services/well-connected/bien-conectado/.

Para obtener más información sobre Well Connected Español, visite nuestra página web en https://covia.org/services/well-connected/bien-conectado/.

For those who don’t know, what is Well Connected?

Well Connected is a phone and online program offering activities, education, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes and support groups to older adults accessible from the comfort of home.

Para los que no saben, ¿Qué es Well Connected?
Well Connected es un programa telefónico y en línea que ofrece actividades, educación, conversación amistosa y una variedad de clases y grupos de apoyo para adultos mayores accesibles desde la comodidad de su hogar.
   
Has Well Connected had groups or classes in Spanish or any other languages before?
Yes, Well Connected has offered classes in Spanish and Russian over the years, but without designated staff who spoke those languages it was hard to gain traction. With designated Well Connected Español staff we are better equipped to connect Spanish speaking older adults with programs they can enjoy.
¿Ha tenido Well Connected grupos o clases en español o en otros idiomas antes?
Sí, Well Connected ha ofrecido clases en Español y en Ruso a lo largo de los años pero sin personal designado que hablaba esos idiomas era difícil ganar terreno. Con personal designado para Well Connected Español, estamos mejor equipados para conectar a adultos mayores que hablan español con programas que puedan disfrutar.
   
Why did Well Connected decide to offer a program in Spanish?
There has been expressed need from service providers and from within the Spanish-speaking community. With the support of Navigage and Metta Fund, Well Connected Español was born. We hope to be able to offer Well Connected in more languages in the future.
¿Por qué Well Connected decidió ofrecer un programa en español?
Se había expresado la necesidad de los proveedores de servicios y de la comunidad latina. Con el apoyo de Navigage y Metta Fund, nació Well Connected Español. Esperamos poder ofrecer Well Connected en más idiomas en el futuro.
   

How did you hear about this project, and why did you decide to get involved?

I heard of this posting via Indeed.com, from the moment I read the listing I knew it was a project I wanted to be a part of. I grew up very close to my grandparents and older adults all throughout my childhood. As an adult, that did not change much. I am amazed by their wisdom, their life knowledge and experiences. The more I am exposed to them the more I have access to information I wouldn’t  learn otherwise because it is stored and unique to them and their personal stories.

¿Cómo se enteró de este proyecto y por qué decidió involucrarse?
Me enteré de esta publicación a través de Indeed.com, desde el momento en que leí el listado, sabía que era un proyecto del que quería formar parte. Crecí muy cerca de mis abuelos y adultos mayores a lo largo de mi infancia. Ahora como adulta eso no a cambiado mucho, estoy asombrada por su sabiduría, su conocimiento de la vida y sus experiencias. Cuanto más me expongo a ellos, más acceso tengo información que no aprendería de otra manera porque está almacenada y es única para ellos y sus historias personales.
   

Have you talked to any Latino elders about this program? What do they think?

Yes, I began promotion of the program both locally in the Bay Area and through virtual trainings to reach Latino elders across the country. I have done presentations at senior centers and at senior housing facilities. The biggest challenge is getting people to understand this new way of thinking about community. Once people understand the concept, the feedback has been positive, with and lots of excitement.

¿Has hablado con algún anciano latino sobre este programa? ¿Qué piensan ellos?
Sí, comencé a promover el programa tanto a nivel local en el Área de la Bahía como a través de capacitaciones virtuales para alcanzar personas mayores latinas en todo el país. He hecho presentaciones en centros para personas mayores y en instalaciones de vivienda para personas mayores. El mayor desafío es lograr que las personas entiendan esta nueva forma de visualizar comunidad. Una vez que las personas entienden el concepto, la retroalimentación ha sido positiva, y con mucha emoción.
   

What are you going to offer for this first session?

For the first session we will be offering the following activities;
Art Appreciation
Introduction to Crocheting
Armchair Travel Series; Peru, Mexico & Italy
Living a Healthy Life
Am I co-dependent?
Holiday series; Mother’s day & Memorial Day Weekend
ESL
Gratitud Call
Lotería (Mexican Bingo)
State of Well Connected (Community Forum)

¿Qué vas a ofrecer para esta primera sesión?
Para la primera sesión estaremos ofreciendo las siguientes actividades;
Apreciación de Arte
Introducción al Tejido Basico
Serie de Viajes Desde el Sillon serie;
Peru, Mexico e Italia
Como Vivir Una Vida Saludable
¿Sere yo Co-dependiente?
Dias Feriados;
Día de la Madres
Día Conmemorativo
ESL
Gratitud
Lotería
Estado de Well Connected Español (Foro Comunitario)
   

How can people sign up to join?

They can register the following ways for the program;
Phone: (877) 400-5867
E-mail: coviaconnections@covia.org
Snail Mail: 881 Turk Street | San Francisco, CA 94102
WhatsApp: (415) 602-9518

¿Cómo pueden las personas registrarse para unirse?
Pueden registrar de las siguientes formas para el Programa;
Teléfono: (877) 400-5867
E-mail: coviaconnections@covia.org
Correo Postal: 881 Turk Street | San Francisco, CA 94102
WhatsApp: (415) 602-9518
   

What if people want to volunteer? How can people get involved?

People can get involved as a facilitator for activities, as a member of the advisory council to advise program manager or as a volunteer helping promote and or send birthday and thank you cards out. To get involved, you can call me, Lizette,  at (877) 400-5867 or email me at lsuarez@covia.org.

¿Qué pasa si la gente quiere ser voluntario? ¿Cómo pueden involucrarse las personas?
Las personas pueden participar como facilitador de actividades, como miembro del Comité Asesor para asesorar coordinador de programa o como voluntario para ayudar a promocionar y / o enviar tarjetas de cumpleaños y de agradecimiento.
Para participar, puede llamarme, Lizette, al (877) 400-5867 o envíe un e-mail a lsuarez@covia.org.
   

What else do you want people to know about Well Connected Español?

Well Connected Espanol is a program by and for Latino elders. This program is only possible with the participation and volunteerism of the community. Together, we put together a great selection of classes and facilitators to make the experience very enjoyable for participants. We hope people participate, consider volunteering, and help us spread the word that Well Connected Español is launching and is here to stay!

¿Qué más quieres que la gente sepa sobre Well Connected Español?
Well Connected Espanol es un programa de y para personas mayores Latinas. Este programa solo es posible con la participación y voluntariado de la comunidad. Juntos, organizamos una gran selección de clases y facilitadores para que la experiencia sea muy agradable para los participantes. ¡Esperamos que la gente participe, considere ser voluntario y nos ayude a difundir la noticia de que Well Connected Español se está lanzando y está aquí para quedarse!

 

The Well Connected and Well Connected Español Spring Session begin Monday, April 8, 2019.

La sesión de primavera de Well Connected y Well Connected Español comienza el lunes 8 de abril de 2019.