Kokoro Kai Adult Day Center (Kokoro = heart/compassion; Kai = group) is a Keiro NW program located in Nikkei Manor in Seattle’s International District.
This adult daycare program provides seniors “with companionship, activities, and meals, all with the goal of increasing independence and well-being.”
Open three days a week, Kokoro Kai is anything but a dreary “parking lot.” It offers a dynamic, balanced, and varied schedule of activities and events that keep participants moving and engaged.
A typical day begins with Tea Time and snacks. This allows the group time to settle in, chat, and renew acquaintances. After tea comes Game Time. Research has shown that playing games is vital for maintaining mental acuity as we age.
Game Time is followed by group exercise and lunch. I was lucky enough to be invited to share lunch with everyone. Conversation was lively, the atmosphere was beyond friendly, and the food (a typical Japanese meal with miso soup, rice, and beef with vegetables) was delicious. Afternoons offer a wide variety of activities such as crafts, singing, dancing, watercolor painting, field trips, charades, and on and on.
A key to the success of the program is the variety: no time to get bored, and the routine never gets stale.
With limited staff, Kokoro Kai relies on volunteers to keep the program running. RSVP volunteer and Ambassador Lillian Hayashi – who has served Keiro NW for over 40 years(!) – is one such volunteer. Lillian’s regular day is Wednesday, but as is typical of Lillian, she is on call for the other two days.
“Be a good neighbor to everyone,” she says, “especially those in need.” ~Lillian Hayashi
When Lillian and I sat down to talk about Kokoro Kai and her life of volunteering, she began by stating that she’s honored to be featured in an article, but she doesn’t like to be singled out for something that’s a team effort. Again, that’s Lillian!
A Seattle native, Lillian received a BA degree from UW in Geography/Education with an emphasis in cartography. (She loves maps). She later received a license as a Nursing Home Administrator.
In her decades-long work career, she told me, Lillian has been blessed to never have had to look for work. Work found Lillian. A young Lillian and her mother were in the checkout line in a grocery store. The woman in front of them had two small children. The tally for the woman’s groceries was more money than she had, and she began looking for items she could do without.
Lillian credits her passion for helping others to the example her parents set. She then told me a story that’s been a lifelong memory and guiding principle.
Lillian’s mother intervened and offered to pay for the woman’s groceries. With tears in her eyes, the woman said she had no way to repay Lillian’s mother for her kindness. “Do something for someone else in need,” her mother replied. “That’s all the payment I need.”
With the spirit instilled in her by her parents, Lillian sees volunteering as an opportunity, not an obligation. “Be a good neighbor to everyone,” she says, “especially those in need.”
And, she adds, volunteering energizes her; the more she volunteers, the more she wants to volunteer. She punctuates that sentiment with a quote from Winston Churchill: “You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.”
As a followup to my visit, I asked Tomoko Faasuamalie, Kokora Kai Supervisor, to describe Lillian’s contributions to the program.
“I’ve never seen a dedicated person like her. … I sometimes worry if she sacrifices herself because I know she’s involved with a lot of groups and is needed by all of us. We really appreciate her thoughtful consideration and support.”
As Lillian and I returned to our cars, she opened her trunk and presented me with a beautiful banana chiffon cake she had baked especially for me. Where, I wondered, does she find the time?