In Part 1, we looked at some of the more popular solutions that families have tried to keep Grandma at home safely. If that’s not possible, there is an intermediate solution before going to the nursing home. The purpose of this article is to examine the pros and cons of retirement homes.

A retirement home, sometimes called an “old people’s home,” is a multi-residence housing facility intended for senior citizens. A retirement home differs from a nursing home primarily in the level of medical care given. Typically, each person or couple in the retirement home has an apartment-style room or suite of rooms.

Additional facilities are provided within the building, including facilities for meals, gatherings, recreation activities, and some form of health or hospice care. The level of facilities varies between facilities. A place in a retirement home can be paid for on a rental basis, like an apartment, or can be bought in perpetuity on the same basis as a condominium.

Now everybody in the Rafu Shimpo community knows about the Keiro Retirement Home. They have furnished studio and one-bedroom apartments that offer residents the independence and privacy they are accustomed to without the burden of household chores, e.g., cooking and cleaning.

I have known two seniors, both men, who moved to Keiro Retirement Home after the passing of their wives. The first said, “It’s great. I come and go as I please.” The second said, “I’ve got two women chasing me. They want to do my laundry and take care of me.” He didn’t seem to mind.

I have personally sat in the dining room and enjoyed a meal. They have restaurant-style dining and the food was excellent. In addition, they have various education and exercise programs, a vegetable and flower garden, activities, outings and special events to make life interesting and fulfilling.

The “pros” of Keiro Retirement Home are so great that the average waiting list is 2 years for a studio and 5 years for a one-bedroom apartment. The biggest “con”? The average waiting list is 2 years for a studio and 5 years for a one-bedroom apartment. The other “con” is that you have to be over 60, and be able to walk (a cane is also permitted), bathe, eat and dress without assistance.

In addition, you must not have dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease or a health condition that requires 24-hour care. If you would like to schedule a tour of Keiro Retirement Home and possibly get on the waiting list, you can call Mr. Ryota Fujimoto at (323) 980-7520 during normal business hours to schedule an appointment.

“But Judd, my grandma can’t wait 5 years. Is there any other retirement home that we can get Grandma into sooner that also caters to the Japanese community?” You bet! It’s called Nikkei Senior Gardens, and it’s located in a quiet residential community in the San Fernando Valley close to the SFVJACC.

Nikkei Senior Gardens is a relatively new (4 years) assisted-living retirement community where residents can live as independently as possible, while receiving personalized, professional assistance — including wellness monitoring, medication assistance, and assistance with everyday activities such as bathing and dressing.

I recently visited Nikkei Senior Gardens and was extremely impressed. The grounds featured a beautiful Japanese rock garden. The hallways were bright, i.e., lots of sunlight, and tastefully decorated. Everything seemed top-notch. They even have a movie room with chairs so big and cozy that one resident was taking a nap.

Nikkei Senior Gardens seemed to be ideal for any Japanese American senior who feels most comfortable with other Japanese American seniors. I looked at the menu for the week. You can have Japanese food (with steamed rice) every day if you should choose. But they also offer a choice of Western food such as New York steak, carnitas tacos, meat loaf and ravioli.

What impressed me the most was the executive director, Mr. Michael Motoyasu. Michael gave me a tour of the facility. He stopped and greeted each resident we passed by name. I said, “I’ve walked down hallways with directors and administrators in senior facilities all over town, but you’re the first one to stop and greet every resident by name.”

Michael responded, “I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Over half of the residents here are the parents of my childhood friends.” He went on to say, “We practice fair housing, but over 99% of the residents here are Japanese American.” By the way, the residents I saw all seemed quite happy to be there.

What’s more, if Grandma has Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, Nikkei Senior Gardens offers a memory support unit. The memory support area is designed to provide a sense of safety, i.e., it’s locked, and also has safe areas for residents to walk both inside and outdoors in the gardens.

The last “pro” that this article will address is that there is only a 3- to 6-month waiting list. “What? Already?” That’s right, in just 4 years they are already full! That’s how nice the facility really is. Furthermore, I understand they are working on expanding the facility and increasing the parking.

The “cons?” It’s a bit pricey. The studio apartments go for a base fee of about $3,400 per month, and $3,625 per month for the larger studio units. The one-bedroom apartments go between $4,225-$4,450. Of course, there are additional fees for assistance with activities of daily living.

Another “con” might be that it is located in Arleta. “Arleta? where’s that?” Arleta is about 20 miles north of downtown Los Angeles off of Interstate 5. So it may be a little out of the way if your family is in the South Bay or Orange County.

If you would like to know more about Nikkei Senior Gardens, visit their website here. If you would like to take a tour of the facility and possibly get on the waiting list, you may contact Michael Motoyasu at (818) 899-1000.

Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. Regarding Judd Matsunaga’s housing of grandma? These two articles are great information for the elderly Nisei and their children. We (Nisei) are living longer then previous generation and need a support system. None of the Japanese senior citizen retirement homes are really affordablle housing; especially when you are on social security $1,500 and a meager saving funds of less then $1,000 or total expenditure of $2,500 per month.

    If we have children and our home are paid for we are extremely in luck; even old homes have lot of rooms for independence; but in reality, being a burden for the children is part of life’s journey.

    Whoever said “have a long life” must not have thought about the delitescent of growing old and senile.

    Does any of our readers have any brright ideas?