Assisted Living for the Asian Community
Senior communities have moved their focus from traditional housing to niche and affinity retirement communities to meet a growing demand for housing that fit residents’ interests and lifestyles. Now, they’re moving toward cultural senior living as well.
We spoke with Emily Poon, General Manager of Aegis Gardens, and Darcia Tanabe, Communications Manager at Nikkei Concerns, about how Asian senior living communities are growing and meeting the needs of their residents.
A Sense of Community
Not long ago, it was difficult for Asian American seniors to find homes in assisted living due to the differences in culture in most communities. “Before Asian specific senior living communities were created,” Emily Poon explains, “there were seniors with diverse backgrounds who could not socialize or find commonalities in regular senior living.” These seniors suffered, Poon says, and felt isolated due to a lack of a sense of belonging.
Seeing the opportunity to improve these seniors’ lives, senior living communities like Aegis Gardens and Nikkei Manor were created with an emphasis on Asian culture. Aegis Gardens is centered on the Chinese community, but brings together seniors of all ethnicities, including Korean and Japanese residents. Nikkei Manor focuses on the Japanese community and, according to Darcia Tanabe, “Our close involvement with the local Japanese American community helps the residents maintain relationships they have established over a few years or even a lifetime.”
Poon says that these Asian senior living communities allow residents to feel a real sense of belonging, and that most relate on their upbringing, background and similar interests. Tanabe agrees, saying, “Residents gain a sense of purpose as they share their culture and experiences…”
Cultural Senior Care
One of the biggest differences between traditional senior housing and Asian senior living is cultural care. Asian assisted living communities focus on cultural aspects of care that align with traditional family values and beliefs — from architectural design, to activities, to cuisine — that remind the residents of home. Cultural aspects of care include:
- Feng-shui architecture and building interiors
- Respectful cultural design including: Chinese gold coins, guardian lions and removal of the unlucky number four from the building
- Activities including: Calligraphy, mahjong and tai-chi
- Cuisine including: Traditional dishes like porridge, soup and noodles, fish, rice and steamed vegetables
- Caregivers and staff that speak both English and Chinese
- Asian-inspired garden for relaxation and activities
- Respectful cultural design including: Tsuru longevity symbols and a torii gate
- Activities including: Calligraphy, card games like hyakunin isshu and Japanese folk dancing
- Cuisine including: Traditional dishes like chawan mushi and oyako donburi
- Caregivers and staff that speak both English and Japanese
Finding Asian Senior Living
When searching for an Asian senior living community for yourself or a loved one, it is important to consider all of your options. Some seniors would rather be cared for by their families according to tradition, and may not want to consider an assisted living community — though Asian senior living communities are growing increasingly popular in the U.S.
If you are looking for an Asian assisted living community, be sure to research the community beforehand, and ask yourself if its services meet your cultural values, beliefs, and your personal level of care.
Seniors enjoy these communities because they give residents “a fresh start to life,” says Poon. “It’s like a whole new world,” she adds. “Residents can socialize with others and make friends, they are able to have traditional food, which is very important, and they are able to be cared for and communicate with Asian caregivers.” Tanabe agrees, saying, “Our residents can enjoy food, music, activities, language, and friendship that is familiar and comforting.” She continues, “They live life to the fullest and teach us the true meaning of aging with grace.”
Have you or a loved one resided in an Asian assisted living community? What was your experience like there? Please share your story below.
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