Your Path to Health and Independence
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Volunteer Spotlight

Lola Fraknoi is one of the wonderful volunteers who gives her time and talent to our frail seniors and disabled adults. She writes about teaching art classes at SteppingStone. “Every Tuesday, I get my art supplies ready and head downtown for my day at two of SteppingStone’s four locations. I start the morning at Presentation Day Health, where I usually arrive as Sandia is leading a fun and energetic exercise class. I join in and get moving before I teach my art class. I spend afternoons teaching at Mabini Day Health.

I have been teaching and creating programs for seniors for over 25 years, most recently as the founding director of Ruth’s Table, a center for creative aging inspired by the life and work of San Francisco artist and art activist Ruth Asawa. The activities I have created for SteppingStone grow out of my conviction that everyone—no matter what their age, background, or abilities—can find creative expression. I have developed a curriculum that starts each person at a place that feels right for them—through projects like prompt drawings, collages, visual stories, and clay assemblages. Even those who don’t think of themselves as natural artists get to feel the joy and satisfaction of being creative. Through our activities, they also get to understand bigger concepts in the arts—like composition, color theory, spatial relationships, and familiarity with a wide range of art materials. As they are guided, step by step through the activities, they hone new skills, and learn new techniques at a pace that feels comfortable to them. It’s only been a couple of months but I already feel that the participants know and enjoy my style of teaching and look forward to the class.

I’d like to share some special moments that have made my days at SteppingStone so special.

A senior’s eyes welled up when she asked to be photographed with me to show off a clay pumpkin she had just finished in class. A group of seniors had a good belly laugh doing a prompt drawing because they all admitted that none of them knew where to start and yet were so delighted to create some great drawings. A participant who rarely spoke asked me to sit down at the end of the class so he could sketch my portrait! What a privilege it is to be able to spark the creativity of all these wonderful people. I am lucky to come into places that exude caring, joy, and a sense of home!”


From the Executive Director

SteppingStone is proud to introduce our pilot program—The Flex Schedule—a two-shift program at the Mission Creek Day Health center starting in June. This wonderful opportunity will allow us to serve an even greater number of seniors and adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses in San Francisco.

Through the years, participants have often asked for more flexibility in program hours. Now, we are responding with the two-shift program. The current hours of operation for all of our centers is from 9:00am–2:00pm. At Mission Creek Day Health, the new operating hours will be from 7:30am–12:30pm in the morning and 12:30pm–5:30pm in the afternoon. We will continue to provide quality care to participants throughout the day in nursing, social services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, activities, etc. Through the person-centered care approach, the whole SteppingStone interdisciplinary team have enhanced the programing by implementing and coordinating more mind teasers, recreational group exercise, dementia care, and groups geared toward mental health.

We will be providing updates about the two-shift program. We are very excited about the prospect of serving even more individuals who want to stay in their homes longer and be as independent as possible in the community. Maelin Wang stepped down as Board President effective March 1, 2017 and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Maelin for her dedication, hard work and stalwart support. We are most fortunate to welcome Bruce Carp as our new Board President. Bruce brings a strong finance background as well as extensive experience with ADHC and PACE programs. I look forward to working with Bruce and our Board as we embark on this exciting venture

Mollie Tobias, 
Executive Director


Nurturing Atmosphere Cultivates Relationships

Darren Fanelli says “I have the best job in the world so I feel good every day anyway because I get to help people. I mean, you can’t get a better job than that.” As Activities Director at SteppingStone’s Mission Creek Day Health, he believes it’s important to honor aging seniors. This mindset pretty well describes every one of our team members at SteppingStone who know how critical it is to engage with each and every one of our seniors. Whether it be playing games like bingo, mahjong or dominoes; smelling and planting flowers; taking part in art, yoga or knitting classes; hand massages or just talking with their fellow participants, we help our seniors avoid isolation and loneliness which often lead to depression. Being part of a vibrant community enhances their quality of life so that they can continue living independently in community. And their time at SteppingStone gives their family and caregivers a break so it’s definitely a win-win.

Donor Highlights:

Philip and Louise Yoh

SteppingStone Mission Creek Day Health welcomed Philip and Louise Yoh for a visit on March 6, 2017. Philip and Louise live in Carmel Indiana where they retired and have supported SteppingStone since 2014 when they made their first major gift to support the replacement of SteppingStone’s aging computers. Over their next two years, their support enabled the organization to update our entire technology infrastructure. To support our incoming flex schedule program, the Yohs just funded the replacement of the physical therapy equipment at Mission Creek Day Health. Our staff has expressed delight at the ease of use and safety of the new equipment and participants are so excited that they actually look forward to exercising! Everyone at SteppingStone is deeply grateful to the Yohs for their exemplary generosity and kindness. Thank you!

Kaiser Permanente and Chinese Community

Health Care Association (CCHCA) Support

Managing Chronic Depression with a Frail Chinese

Elderly Population in Adult Day Health Care(ADHC).

In Spring of 2016, SteppingStone was honored to receive two grants to support treatment of depression in Chinese seniors enrolled in SteppingStone’s ADHC centers. Kaiser Permanente and Chinese Community Health Care Association each funded $15,000 in support of this critical program.

In recent years, SteppingStone has seen a dramatic increase in the complexity of healthcare needs presented by our clients. We have also seen a marked increase in mental health diagnoses from 42% to 65% in 3 years. Specifically, depression, often manifested by suicidal ideation, in our Chinese female elderly has increased. (CDC indicates Asian American women aged 65+ have a higher suicide rate that any other ethnic group in that age bracket). Being monolingual puts them at greater risk of poor healthcare as they cannot communicate with their doctors. Years of living in poverty with language barriers, and the stigma associated with mental health issues have resulted in reduced access to quality healthcare. Moreover, primary care providers, even if they speak the language, often will not bring up mental health issues since they share the same cultural bias.

However, SteppingStone’s experience shows that within the context of ADHC where these Chinese seniors are already receiving coordinated care, they are more receptive to treatment in a safe setting where they can communicate in their own language. By providing treatment in Chinese and in the ADHC environment which has engendered their trust, the goal is that more of these elders will overcome their misgivings and shame about mental health treatment and seek help from SteppingStone staff. SteppingStone seeks to provide them with the tools to manage this chronic disease and to keep depressive symptoms in remission. Over the past year, using the CADS9, a culture-specific screening measure used to evaluate and screen for depression in a Chinese population, we have seen decreases and/or stabilization in depression scores. Additionally, daily clinical observations by SteppingStone’s social workers, nurses and program aides show that engagement with SteppingStone staff and their peers have greatly reduced loneliness and isolation, two major factors that contribute to depression. We are grateful to Kaiser Permanente and Chinese Community Health Care Association for their invaluable support. CCHCA has committed to a second year of funding and we have been invited by Kaiser Permanente to submit a full proposal for a second year. Community partners such as Kaiser Permanente and CCHCA enable SteppingStone to continue serving San Francisco’s frail elderly and adults with disabilities.


Previous Newsletters

Winter 2016

Summer 2016

All photos by Karen Ande,

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