What do you enjoy most in life?
I enjoy seeing family and friends on a Sunday morning at church. I enjoy waiting in airports in anticipation to travel across the world to a new country or coming home after a great adventure. I enjoy spontaneously driving to coffee shops or museums to read or study.
But I may come to a point in my life where I cannot physically get out of bed to drive to church, to get coffee, and certainly not to go to the airport to sit on a plane for 15 hours! My eyesight might be so poor that driving becomes dangerous, that reading makes me nauseous. All the while, my close friends and family might be scattered around the world working or living in far off and inconvenient places. Some might have passed away before me. I might feel like no one understands and that I won’t have the energy to explain.
I am a part of the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI), which has proven to be multifaceted. Kizuna organizes interns from San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles, and each intern is placed at different community organizations. I was fortunate enough to get placed at Keiro this summer! Along with getting work experience, we learn more about the Japanese American community and culture. One day of the week, the interns in their respective geographic locations come together to have a day of workshops and visit various historical sites or work sites. On Friday July 15, Keiro hosted the Los Angeles NCI Interns Site Visit.
That day, seven of my fellow Los Angeles interns came to Keiro’s administrative office in Little Tokyo. I gave them a presentation on the Keiro’s history and where Keiro is headed in the future. My supervisor, Brandon Leong who is the Director of Community Advancement for Keiro, clarified and answered tough questions about Keiro’s transition and finally we did an Aging Simulation.
For this Aging Simulation, the NCI Interns were asked to put on distorted goggles to simulate cataracts caused by aging. Then they put cotton balls in their ears to simulate muffled hearing. Next, they wrapped bandages around their elbows or knees to simulate arthritis. Finally, they were asked, “Knowing how Older Adults live their lives…how can Young Adults better support them?”
The other interns gave informed reflections after the aging simulation. One intern placed at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Kyoko Van Dyke said, “Older Adults are used to living these full lives and their body declines. That is hard for the family to see them age, but it must be super hard for them.” Another intern placed at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, Kelly Sera, explained that “having patience is one of the hardest things.” But all of us interns agreed that patience was vital as well as being present. Showing that we care by being present and understanding Older Adults frustration or slowness and therefore being patient are qualities we will strive for.
All of this was a simulation for us millennials, who falsely believe we are immune to aging or that even becoming a caregiver for our parents is far down the line. What a sobering glimpse of the future. The reality that older adults in our community live a life without being able to take their vision loss goggles off or the cotton balls out of their ears is a reality we will eventually face. I would like to grow old with a young generation that understands and has compassion for this inevitable state.
Since 2002 over 30 students and young adults have benefited from Keiro’s internship program, gaining meaningful work experience and a deeper understanding of the Japanese American community. Keiro is expanding our reach from a focus on long term health care facilities to broadly engaging and supporting thousands of Japanese American and Japanese older adults throughout Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties. Keiro provides services to older adults and caregivers, along with programs for residents of Keiro’s former facilities—helping older adults in Our Community to age the way they choose.
About the Author:
Channing Lou is a Nikkei Community Internship intern at Keiro. She studies Anthropology and Study of Religion at UCLA. Channing stays Genki by serving her church community and hopes to work with a non-profit organization abroad. When she has spare time, she enjoys reading and traveling.
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