Nikkei Concerns, a Seattle nonprofit dedicated to serving elderly in the Japanese community via health and wellness programs,homecare, and assisted living, will be celebrating its 40 year anniversary Friday, October 23 at the Sheraton Seattle with a dinner and auction gala. Founded in 1975, with funds raised entirely by leaders of the Japanese community, Nikkei Concerns has evolved from its 27 patient nursing home beginning to a multi-facet health and wellness nonprofit encompassing an assisted living community, rehabilitation and care center, senior activity program, continuing education program, transportation service, home care program, and more. Jeffrey Hattori, Chief Executive Officer of Nikkei Concerns, caught up with the International Examiner to discuss the organization’s history, future, and upcoming 40th anniversary gala.

Created in 1975, Nikkei Concerns is a not-for-profit organization that serves a growing community through its four programs: Seattle Keiro, Nikkei Manor, Kokoro Kai and Nikkei Horizons. • Courtesy Photo
Created in 1975, Nikkei Concerns is a not-for-profit organization that serves a growing community through its four programs: Seattle Keiro, Nikkei Manor, Kokoro Kai and Nikkei Horizons. • Courtesy Photo

International Examiner: What are Nikkei Concerns goals in terms of health care?

Jeffrey Hattori: Health care reform and an evolving community are truly game changers. The concerns of 40 years ago are different than today, however, both present significant challenges … as well as opportunity.  We have researched, analyzed, and developed strategic initiatives over the past three years and have been testing, enhancing, expanding, and launching services that support the health and wellness and needs and wants of our community while meeting the mandates of health care reform. Our goal is to offer an array of premier health care/lifestyle programs and services for our Asian senior community and to anyone who may find them beneficial.

IE: As Nikkei Concerns embarks on its 40th year, in your opinion, what are some of the biggest milestones the organization has achieved thus far? In what ways has it grown or evolved since it first opened in 1975?

Hattori: Each of our programs have been an incredible achievement, but the launch of the first Seattle Keiro certainly stands out. It took tremendous effort and determination by the seven founders to rally community support. Not only did they raise funds and negotiate the complexities of skilled nursing, they also altered perceptions of traditional ways and established our values. Over the past 40 years, Seattle Keiro and all of the programs have truly become a community institution that is supported by thousands of individuals: residents, participants, family members, volunteers, donors, staff, community organizations, supporters, and more. We are community!

We’re also very proud of the Seattle Keiro and Nikkei Manor gardens and recently, our Rehabilitation Renovation at Seattle Keiro. Residents, families, and visitors find peace and inspiration in these spaces. Doctor’s appointments and the right medications are important, but life is more than those things Nikkei Concerns has changed with the times and needs of the community, and we continue to do so today, with a new focus on home-based services.

IE: What does Nikkei Concerns have planned for their 40th Anniversary Gala?

Hattori: The gala is a celebration of our history and a toast to our future. The theme is “One Community | Transforming Lives | Celebrating 40 Years.”

The silent auction offers three sections of wonderful items up for bid. The live auction features 21 showcases encompassing contemporary artwork, sports collectibles/experiences, plus exquisite dining and travel adventures. A very lucky guest will win diamond earrings in the raffle (only 50 tickets sold) and the Wine Grab has some special vintages hidden among the many bottles. VIP guests will have an advance bidding opportunity plus a special reception before the doors open to general admission guests.

Jeffery Hattori • Courtesy photo
Jeffery Hattori • Courtesy photo

Emcee Yuji Okumoto, actor and local restaurateur, will lead the festivities. We will pay tribute to our founders and the community which  has claimed Nikkei Concerns as its own and reveal our new logo for Keiro Northwest.

Two of our NC Club members and their families will share their stories and ask the community to transform lives with contributions for our home/community-based program, NC Club. With their generous support, more community members will feel independent, safe, and well-cared for.

IE: Are there any achievements or individuals you will be celebrating or honoring this year?

Hattori: Our 40-year history would be nowhere without our founders, and we will honor Tosh Okamoto and Tomio Moriguchi.

IE: Why will Nikkei Concerns be changing its name to Keiro Northwest January 1st, 2016?

Hattori: Our world is evolving, from personal expectations to demographics and geography to the health care environment and structure, and it is vital to respond and grow. Our new name recognizes the need for change and honors the community that has been our foundation for the last 40 years. The word “keiro” translates as “respect for the elderly,” a universal value. It encompasses our mission and honors the legacy of the past.

IE: What plans does Nikkei Concerns have for the future? Will you be expanding in any other ways?

Hattori: We plan to be a resource for the community and offer a continuum of care for Asian seniors and others who need our unique services. We will enhance our existing programs and are exploring partnerships with community organizations and other health care providers for seamless offerings. Residents and participants can be confident as we help coordinate their care and ease the way through the complexities of healthcare.

As Keiro Northwest, we will broaden our outreach to new communities and families who need a reliable partner in the world of health care. Our residents already represent many diverse cultures, and our staff speaks dozens of languages and dialects. We understand the impact that a familiar language and food can make on an individual’s life, and we will build familiarity and trust with communication in Japanese, Chinese,  Korean, and Vietnamese.

IE: What are some of the major obstacles Asian seniors face today? How can Nikkei Concerns help to address these issues?

Hattori: Isolation is a tough issue. The traditional Asian family has changed—adult children are geographically dispersed, economics often require both adult children and their spouses to work, seniors live longer and can have complex and challenging health issues. Seniors may have expectations based on tradition, but families are not able to fully support those expectations.

The health care system is often confusing and complicated. If one’s native language is not English, an additional layer of difficulty is added.

Seniors need purpose in life, to be needed and appreciated. If they don’t have purpose, especially if they live alone, with little socialization, both physical and mental health are at risk.

We recognize that these issues are challenging for Asian seniors. We are creating strategies to help. We encourage seniors to stay active through continuing education classes that Nikkei Horizons offers and to keep up their social circles with Kokoro Kai. If in need of skilled nursing or assisted living services, residents can get the help they need and belong to a group who cares about them. As our networks and services grow, we hope to better ease the burden on Asian seniors.

As a community, as a family, we are deeply grateful to seniors for their lifetime of hard work, sacrifice, inspiration, and unending hope for a better life for all of us. We strive to do more for them. 

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