By Jordan Ikeda
Rafu Staff Writer
When Nikkei Senior Gardens opened last March, it did so after undergoing 12 years of diligent preparation and work. Twelve years that came with their share of setbacks and roadblocks. Twelve years invested by several people with vision, perseverance and dedication.
When the assisted living community finally opened, it did so with only two brave residents willing to venture into the new and untested. A short nine months later and Nikkei Senior Gardens has blossomed into a thriving neighborhood, those two residents, now part of a 57-member family.
“This is a voluntary community,” Marc Aronoff, director of sales and marketing for Nikkei Senior Gardens, told the Rafu Shimpo. “The residents choose to live here.”
Located in the city of Arleta in the San Fernando Valley, Nikkei Senior Gardens isn’t like other assisted living facilities. For one, every apartment on the second floor is furnished with bathtub showers. It also employs five different, culinary school-trained chefs who provide both western and eastern style meals every single day.
But more to the point, Aronoff explains that Nikkei Senior Gardens isn’t a facility at all, instead it is a carefully planned and earnestly cared for community. The proof can be found in the details. Every room has a personalized patio or balcony. The hallways are flush with natural light that streams through the myriad windows located throughout the entire community. There is a hair salon and a movie theater, a laundry room and personalized mailboxes. There’s even several plots of land where residents can plant and grow their own fruits and vegetables.
“A few months ago some of our residents harvested corn, Japanese cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs, green beans, cantaloupe,” Aronoff explained. “Some of them we used for food here, but most of the Japanese cucumbers went to family members who pickled it and brought it back for everyone to enjoy.”
And of course there’s the crowning jewel, the grand centerpiece of the entire community. The garden. Designed by landscape architects, Frank Tanaka and Stan Fukunaka, the garden is both beautiful in its clean design as well as in its simplicity. While walking around Nikkei Senior Gardens, residents and visitors will never lose sight of the garden and at many junctures, like the solarium, are provided with beautiful vistas.
“Some people who are thinking about coming here are a little hesitant at first,” Aronoff “It is a major lifestyle change.”
For this reason, Aronoff explains that the main goal of the 45 working staff is to provide maximum comfort. Cameras monitor the hallways to ensure safety. Each resident is given an emergency response system to keep with them at all times. Wellness monitoring, medication management and personal assistance are available for anyone in need.
“A lot of these people have been in their homes for 30, 40, 50 years,” Aronoff continued. “That’s one of the things we do, is we help with that transition. Moving them from where they are at into a community like this. The other residents and the staff work to make new residents feel comfortable. We work as a team.”
When Aronoff says community, he means it in every sense. Residents can take the community bus that makes weekly trips to Little Tokyo and Marukai in Gardena. There are also physical fitness and art classes as well as a host of recreational and cultural activities.
“We want people to have the comforts of home,” Aronoff said. “It’s got to feel like home or it’s not worth it.”
This is the first part of a mini series that will be running over the next few weeks detailing Nikkei Senior Gardens. For more information, visit www.nikkeiseniorgardens.com or call (818) 899-1000.