VOX POPULI: Past, Present and Future of Keiro

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Keiro Senior Healthcare was formed in 1961 by eight community leaders to purchase the Japanese Hospital, which provided hospital care to members of the Japanese American and Japanese community, until it closed in 1985. Keiro Nursing Home opened in 1969, followed by the retirement home and intermediate care facility (formerly the Jewish Home for the Aging in Boyle Heights) and the opening of the second nursing home in the South Bay.

Keiro owned, operated and maintained these facilities to provide compassionate, quality health care in a culturally sensitive environment. Our mission was simple: Enhance the quality of senior life in Our Community.

From 1961 until 2000, Keiro senior care expanded while the world around us changed. When Keiro was founded, the City of Los Angeles had almost 40 percent fewer residents than today. Boyle Heights, which is now 95 percent Latino, was more diverse with a mix of Jews, Latinos, Russians, Portuguese and, of course, Japanese Americans. Nevertheless, during those changing times older members of Our Community, Japanese American and Japanese, continued to come to Keiro’s facilities to live as they aged and Keiro was able to provide them with health care services.

A little over a decade ago, the fortunes of Keiro, similar to most other non-profit senior care facilities throughout California, started to change. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 97 percent of the 65-and-older population age at home instead of in facilities. At Keiro, applications for admission to the retirement home dropped 80 percent in the past ten years. Combined with rising health care, labor and other costs, Keiro’s revenues started to decrease while expenses continued to increase.

With these facts, Keiro’s Board was forced to make a very difficult decision:

(1) Allow Keiro to deteriorate and eventually close the facilities, losing everything the founders worked so hard to build;

(2) Commit fully to population-based health care supporting the population where the facilities are located, thus limiting Keiro’s resources and ability to support needs of Japanese American and Japanese older adults; or

(3) Sell the facilities and use the proceeds to expand our services and programs for older adults in our community, whether they live in facilities or at home.

By now, everyone knows the basic facts regarding the sale of the Keiro facilities. Based on years of study and discussion, Keiro agreed to sell the facilities to Pacifica Companies LLC. After public notice and communication and a rigorous review process by the California Attorney General’s Office, the sale was approved on Sept. 2, 2015. The transaction documents and the conditions imposed by the attorney general contained provisions to ease the effect of the transition.

During this period, a small but vocal group with very limited or no experience with Keiro attempted to stop the sale. Despite their best efforts, including both political and legal challenges, they failed and the sale closed on Feb. 5, 2016. With that closing, we had hoped that this matter would be settled and we could come together as a community to heal and move forward. Sadly, we were wrong and the attacks still continue.

Our Board of Directors, with a combined 170 years of experience with Keiro, knew the facts, figures and economic trends that showed that a sale was necessary. As volunteer members of the board, we have a fiduciary duty to make sure that Keiro provides the support and resources needed to help the older adults, their families and caregivers achieve the aging experience they desire. We believe that Keiro’s founders, if faced with the same circumstances that we encounter today, would have made the same decision.

Having observed the actions of the new operators over these past few months, we are confident that they are providing the same quality of care as our seniors previously experienced. Residents and family members we have spoken with have said the same thing: “Nothing’s changed.” That’s what we want to hear and we will do everything we can to make sure that it stays that way. Please visit our website at www.keiro.org/about/transition and find our Fact Sheet (Keiro: Correcting Misinformation), which corrects misinformation being spread about the sale.

As many of you are aware, there has also been a change to the executive leadership at Keiro. We want to be completely clear – Shawn Miyake has been an excellent president and CEO and retired after devoting over 20 years of his life to making sure that our seniors, who include our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, sisters and brothers, were in the best hands possible. Shawn is a man of honor and integrity. We wish Shawn all the best in his retirement and thank him for his decades of service to Our Community.

As Keiro re-envisions its future, different leadership skills, background, experience and relationships will be required. We will recruit an experienced, high-level individual well poised to lead the organization for years to come.

Although Keiro’s mission remains the same as it was 55 years ago, how Keiro can best enhance the quality of senior life in Our Community has changed. For now, Keiro has been engaged to support the current residents at our former facilities by managing the volunteer program and completing several major improvement projects at these facilities, as well as providing educational classes and supporting residents’ special activities and events. Through our programs, events, research and classes, we are also working to support thousands of older adults in Our Community who live in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

We are excited about what Keiro will become and look forward to continuing to provide our core services for older adults in Our Community, while expanding our services for those who live at our former facilities, as well as those who are choosing to age at home. We have conducted interviews of many prominent members of Our Community and experts in the field of aging and are reviewing this information as part of our strategic planning process. We expect to have more details to share in the coming months.

A lot has changed since 1961. We embrace our future. We are optimistic and excited about Keiro going forward and call on all members of Our Community to join us in helping Japanese American and Japanese older adults age on their own terms and live with dignity, vitality and confidence through our focus on providing services to older adults, supporting caregivers, and continuing programs for residents of Keiro’s former facilities.

Please join us in remembering our history, helping and caring for our present, and working together in creating a new Keiro.

Keiro Board of Directors

Ernest Doizaki

Jeff Folick

Gerald Fukui

Thomas Iino

John Ikegami

Gary Kawaguchi

Lynn Miyamoto

Makoto Nakayama

Stuart Tsujimoto

Ruth Watanabe

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