By MICHAEL TOJI 

On the same day that I, as a family member of a Sakura ICF resident, received the 60 Day Notice of Transfer notifying the imminent closure of this beloved facility, I find the latest Keiro Connect newsletter in my inbox touting the following:

The “Heartfelt Support of the Iyashi Care Team”

“A Glimpse of Keiro’s 60 Years”

“Celebrating Our Older Adults” (Keiro no Hi Festival)

“Reducing Social Isolation Through Keiro’s Grants Program”

I will address each of these points from the perspective of someone whose 91-year-old mother is now being forced to relocate out of a facility in which she placed her trust that it would care for her for the remainder of her life.

The “Heartfelt Support of the Iyashi Care Team” 

Iyashi in Japanese means healing, soothing, or solace. These are the very qualities the residents of ICF need from Keiro at this time of imminent displacement. I hope that Keiro has not forgotten about the elderly Japanese residents of ICF who are being evicted from the facility during the worst pandemic we have ever experienced.

After all, Keiro was founded on the principle of caring for and protecting these very residents who are now suffering and experiencing helplessness. Even though you sold out your Living Treasures five years ago, I ask that you NOT stand by and do nothing, but take active measures to help the most vulnerable elders. This is the time for Keiro to provide financial aid and heartfelt support to these residents, who are deserving of your utmost attention.

“A Glimpse of Keiro’s 60 Years”

A glaring omission in this retrospective is the sale of the Keiro facilities to a for-profit, real-estate development company. Prior to the sale, ICF was a nonprofit senior facility where Nikkei seniors of various financial standing were accepted and cared for under the same roof.

Keiro also received countless donations, both financial and volunteerism, to run the facilities. The donations were to be used for the purpose of serving the residents. Keiro has the moral and fiduciary responsibility to these people who are now on the verge of being evicted. They do not have a place to transfer to that they can afford and where they can communicate in their own language.

“Celebrating Our Older Adults” (Keiro no Hi Festival)

In all conscience, it would be hard to celebrate when close to 90 Living Treasures (many in their 80s, 90s and even in their 100s) are now being forced our of a facility they were led to believe would care for them in the twilight of their years. Token “gifts” to the ICF residents of manju and bentos during Japanese holidays will not suffice. You cannot commemorate and honor our older adults at a time like this. In fact, the plight of these residents should be highlighted in this festival.

“Reducing Social Isolation Through Keiro’s Grants Program”

In an article published in the April 15 edition of this newspaper, it was announced that “Keiro Awards Grants to 32 Organizations to Address Social Isolation During Pandemic.” I would like to see Keiro show the same level of care for the residents of ICF who face an uncertain and dangerous future. While social isolation is a real and legitimate concern, what about the legitimate issues of shortened life or homelessness faced by these elders? They’ve suffered enough.

In the article, Gene Kanamori writes, ““With the pandemic, the issue of social isolation has become even more apparent and a significant threat to the well-being of our older adults and caregivers in the community.” The well-being of the ICF residents must not be dismissed. I would like to remind Keiro and Mr. Kanamori that these are residents that you accepted and promised to care for, for many years to come.

I would encourage the board members of Keiro to do the right thing and support the residents and families of Sakura ICF in their forced relocation from what was once a respected institution in the Japanese and Japanese American community.

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Michael Toji has a family member residing at the Sakura ICF. He lives in the San Fernando Valley. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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