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Club Bamboo: Innovative Seattle Senior Living

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonFebruary 11, 2013

Today we talk to the Asian Counseling and Referral Service about Club Bamboo, their innovative Seattle senior living program that serves up nutritious meals, exercise classes, and social connections.

Club Bamboo Serves Seattle Asian SeniorsSocial isolation can be a problem among seniors, particularly immigrants—especially if you can’t find someone else who speaks the same language. That’s why Seattle’s Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) created Club Bamboo. Club Bamboo gives hundreds of Asian seniors a chance to connect with each other over lunch, in fitness classes, and in other senior living activities. A Place for Mom got in touch with Owen Lei, ACRS Communications Coordinator, and Miguel Saldin, ACRS Senior Nutrition and Information Manager, and asked them to tell us a bit more about the program.

Q. What services does Club Bamboo provide for Asian and Asian-American seniors?

Owen: Club Bamboo is an ACRS program that provides culturally relevant activities and low-cost meals tailored to senior nutrition needs. We primarily serve the King County Asian Pacific Islander community, but do not restrict anyone from attending Club Bamboo activities or lunches. Among the classes we provide: Tai Chi, line dancing, modern dance, yoga, art classes, conversational English meet-ups, and computer proficiency. We are located in Rainier Valley at 3639 Martin Luther King Junior Way S, Seattle, WA 98144.

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Q. What other senior programs do you provide?

Owen: We provide bilingual case management for home-bound elders, providing them with the services they need to remain independent. We conduct assessments of in-home care services and connect elders with caregivers and nurses.  We also assist elders with Medicare/Medicaid issues, legal consultation, housing, transportation, and other social activities outside Club Bamboo. Our elderly clients have access to multilingual housing assistance and job training, too.

Q. What makes Club Bamboo’s senior living programs special?

Owen: I think there is something to be said about the multicultural, multilingual aspect of Club Bamboo, and how it helps so many ethnic groups find a common bond of friendship beyond language. While you often will see folks gravitating towards groups who speak the same words as they do, some seem to find camaraderie in the socialization alone, regardless of whether the friend they just met understands them fully.

Our modern dance program is also surprisingly popular. We have septuagenarians who can really boogie (last year some of them even picked some “Gangnam Style” moves).

Q. Do you serve only seniors living independently, or do seniors come in from assisted living or other facilities?

Owen: Our Club Bamboo clientele span a wide range of living situations. Some shuttle in from local Seattle assisted living centers. Others take public transit here from their homes.

Q. What are some of the benefits Club Bamboo offers Asian seniors? How does it facilitate their ability to live independently?

Miguel: The atmosphere is welcoming. There are many volunteers, staff and participants involved in activities every day. Elders in our community can experience isolation and can struggle with connecting with others. The Congregate Meal Program allows them to interact and socialize with familiar faces who may share a common language. The meals provided are culturally appropriate and nutritious.

Exercise and activities are plentiful and free of charge. With so many programs and special events, it allows for our members to be involved in new experiences and get excited about being part of such a big program. In 2012, we had 421 members.

Quarterly, Club Bamboo also hosts workshops for our seniors. Topics include healthy cooking, nutrition, medical concerns, benefits and information/assistance resources.

Q. What plans does Club Bamboo have for the future?

Miguel: We are always looking for new volunteers to share their talents. At this time, Club Bamboo is open to bringing on any new activities. The seniors really enjoy trying new things and look forward to it. We are not only looking for people to help out teaching classes, but also to help out as volunteer cashier/registrar or kitchen assignments….Feedback is important to us, so we enjoy hearing from participants as to what other activities, menu items or changes they would like to see.

We want to hear from our readers—is there a service like Club Bamboo for multicultural seniors in your own community? What do you think of Club Bamboo’s offerings? Let us know in the comments.

Sarah Stevenson
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Sarah Stevenson
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