Since 2006, the Nikkei Senior Network (NSN) is a unique program that brings together different community leaders who work with their older adult groups at various churches, temples, senior groups, and community centers. These meetings allow community leaders to collaborate with one another through shared experiences to strengthen individual programs that support older adults. Groups are also given the space to share their upcoming events, outings, and opportunities for other community members to participate in.
The NSN During the Pandemic
In 2022, 25 community leaders representing 21 different organizations in the Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties participated in NSN meetings and discussions. The NSN meets virtually on a quarterly basis and has evolved to include large and small group discussions, guest speakers, and various presentations on topics such as communicating with their members, transportation liability, reopening during the pandemic, meal delivery programs, and more. This is an opportunity not only for community organizations to share ideas with each other, but also for Keiro to receive direct feedback regarding the needs of Our Community so we can support the community with informed and collaborative responses.
Especially during an unprecedented pandemic that presented these organizations with new challenges, the NSN provided them with a platform to discuss their concerns, share advice, and support each other during these changes.
Taking Notes for Reopening
Sue Kawasaki, president of Continuing Education for the Nikkei Widowed (CENW), shared how the NSN has been a beneficial support system for her and CENW. When organizations began to slowly bring back in-person gatherings, Sue would listen and take notes about what other organizations were doing to keep their members safe such as cleaning procedures and other safety measures.
When it came to speaking with CENW’s board of directors and leaders about bringing their members together in-person and assessing their gathering space, Sue took out her checklist of protocols that were drawn from listening to discussions during NSN meetings. Additionally, as they were planning for getting their members to the gathering, Sue really appreciated the NSN meeting that focused on transportation liability. She shared, “CENW was fully prepared and felt quite comfortable ensuring the health and safety of our members for the first in-person meeting in June of 2022. This could not be possible without hearing all of the discussions and comments from members of the NSN.”
Applying the advice and recommendations Sue received during NSN meetings, CENW successfully hosted their first in-person gathering of around 40 members that included lunch, games, and socializing with each other after not seeing each other for more than two years. To this day, Sue and the CENW team still follow thorough cleaning procedures to keep their members safe at their gatherings.
“Talk Story” Inspiration
Another challenge that CENW faced during the pandemic was keeping in contact with their older adult members who did not have easy access to online communications. Their main form of communication with their members was through regularly distributed printed and email newsletters. The pandemic forced them to temporarily shift to just email newsletters. However, they still had a handful of members who relied solely on printed newsletters. In 2021, CENW started a new program called “Talk Story” that was inspired by the programs Sue heard of other organizations doing to stay connected to their members during the pandemic.
“I remember one group said they would go out and stand in their doorway and safely talk to their members to check in and interact with them. Since we didn’t have the manpower to go door to door, I thought what we could do was to target those individuals without emails, and have volunteers call these members to chat and check in,” Sue shared. Many of their members appreciated these regular check-ins. Talk Story has now evolved to focus on connecting with members who cannot attend their in-person gatherings.
The Joys of Connecting
Sue expressed that she really enjoys listening to what other organizations are doing and absorbing information that is discussed during NSN meetings. She recognizes that even though the information may not be relevant to her or CENW at the time, being able to reference that information in the future is a great resource to have.
“[The NSN] enabled me to cope with the enormous task of keeping CENW members connected during these stressful times. I felt I was not alone in dealing with all the challenges, and I benefited greatly from the comments and sharing even when the topic at the moment did not pertain specifically to our organization at the time… I truly appreciate the support Keiro has given to the community groups.”
For more information and to join future meetings, visit keiro.org/NSN.