Recognizing the 20th Anniversary of Nikkei Home
By Ruth Coles, President, Nikkei Health Care and Housing Society and Shihori Scott-Montcrieff, Project Coordinator, Robert Nimi Nikkei Home’s 20th Anniversary
“OK, everyone! Push yourself up with the chair. Let’s try 12 times! Ready? Here we go! 1, 2, 3….”
The lively voice of Hiromi, our exercise instructor, echoes through the hallway and participating residents are moving and stretching their well-used arms and legs. In our salon room, some residents are enjoying their weekly beautification. And on the 4th floor, smiles and laughter of seniors enjoying their weekly chat with volunteers are lighting up the room.
We all strive to live a long and healthy life with dignity, pride, and independence. However, as years pass by, our well-used bodies start to face some challenges and our confidence and smile fade away. Accepting the reality that we are no longer able to do what we could is devastating. Imagine being moved to a place with unfamiliar faces, food, and language…
For the Japanese Canadian community, providing services and programs to meet the needs of Japanese Canadians and creating a home where Japanese Canadian seniors can have access to familiar foods, be understood, and maintain connections to the Japanese community have been a priority for many years. From the moment the idea of building a care home to meet the needs of isolated Japanese Canadian seniors was raised till today, many individuals in the community have dedicated themselves to make their dream a reality.
Their journey started with the establishment of the Japanese Canadian Society in 1973 that addressed the housing needs of single Japanese Canadians and lead to building Sakura-so on Powell Street. While many single Japanese Canadian seniors were able to live in bed sitting rooms with minor cooking facilities, concerns for isolated Japanese Canadian seniors at local care facilities and need for a culturally sensitive facility for Japanese Canadian seniors became prominent.
In 1981, an Ad Hoc committee was formed which was followed by a public meeting and the recruitment of interested individuals in 1984. Two years later, the Japanese Canadian Health Care Society was incorporated and became a charitable organization.
As Nikkei Place began to take shape through the purchase of land made possible by funding from the federal redress settlement, the building of New Sakura-so occurred in 1998 followed by the merger of the Japanese Canadian Society and the Japanese Canadian Health Care Society to become the “Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society” in 2001. Through funding from BC Housing management, Fraser Health Authority, and significant contributions from the Japanese Canadian community, Nikkei Home, an assisted living residence of 59 suites, became a reality on September 13, 2002. “Respect, Dignity, Independence, Choice, and Privacy” were adopted as the guiding principles in providing care to seniors.
Since the opening, the society has been endlessly finding a way to improve the lives of the residents and individuals with mild to moderate dementia who wish to remain at their own home. In 2013, with funding from New Horizons and the Vancouver Foundation, dementia-friendly outreach programs called “Iki Iki”, “kudiroaku” and “Sukuyoka” started. In 2018, Nikkei Home welcomed 5 additional units and Kenko Lounge and, in honour of Robert Nimi, who dedicated over 24 years of his life to the establishment and the operation of Nikkei Home, it was renamed “Robert Nimi Nikkei Home”.
Today, Nikkei Home is packed with weekly activities such as bingo, ikebana and art table, and many residents come out to add joy to their day. And thanks to technology, residents connect with their loved ones via Zoom, which is a silver lining throughout the isolation imposed by the COVID pandemic.
September 13th of this year will mark the 20 years of “Kenko de Nagaiki” (Live, Laugh, and Age with grace). We will be celebrating this special day on September 17th at Nikkei Place Event Hall with invited guests. It is a day to celebrate the Japanese Canadian community as a whole, as it was the community members who united and made a difference for others. And it is a day to acknowledge and cherish the past and present of the community spirit, perseverance, love, care and volunteerism, which will live on into the future.
Looking back at the day “Nikkei Home” was just an idea, we have come so far but our journey never ends. Now we ask ourselves, what is the future of seniors care in the Japanese Canadian community? Is it the development of additional home support programs for seniors? Is it the development of more programs connecting seniors virtually to each other with “at home” exercise programs and socialization? Is it the expansion of our current residences and the development of a complex care residence once the current services are no longer able to meet their needs?
It is all of the foregoing needs that need to be addressed and we are committed to continuing the journey to explore the possibilities of the future.