For over 20 years, Keiro has provided programs and resources for family caregivers, the vast majority of whom have been Nisei and Baby Boomers. But as the Baby Boomers in Our Community are now aging and reflecting on their caregiving experiences, they often share that they were not well-prepared and in the future, they don’t want to be a burden on their families.
In 2022, Keiro launched its Millennial Caregiving initiative, beginning with a series of dinners to bring the next generation together to start conversations around caregiving and preparing for the future. The three-part series introduced different topics such as conversations about death, funeral planning, and estate planning. For many attendees, this was the first introduction to thinking about these topics for their own families and futures and discussing with their peers.
Keiro interviewed two participants, Leslie and Daniel, about how the dinners have benefitted them so far. Both felt the dinner series was a good place to start thinking about these important topics that they know will be relevant in the future.
A Starting Point for the Conversation
“If I were to do it on my own, I wouldn’t really know where to start, so I think overall just learning what types of questions to ask my family was helpful,” shared Daniel.
Daniel mentioned that while his parents said they have their plan in place regarding caregiving, he was not aware of the details. “Now [after attending the dinners], I have more questions to bring to the table as we go along this journey to figure it out. I started talking to [my parents] about estate planning over the phone. As we started, it didn’t seem like they wanted to talk about that much, so I definitely want to have that serious conversation in person.” He also added, “I want to bring my brothers into the conversation, so it doesn’t feel like they’re being left out or that I’m trying to shoulder all this.”
Leslie also had a brief conversation with her mother right after attending the first session, about her wishes after passing away. “My mother was open [to talking about it], so it was easy. But I do see the difficulties with my other aunts and uncles.” She added that she had a good reality check when she learned about challenges surrounding wills and trusts, and to start early on those conversations as well. Being the eldest child is an important factor for her. “I know that [because] I am the eldest, I probably will do a lot of the work, and I don’t want to deal with the stress [of planning last minute].”
The Relevance of Keiro to the Younger Generations
The biggest change for the two seemed to be their impression of Keiro.
Leslie commented, “I always saw photos of older people on Keiro’s communications and initially thought, ‘These programs are for people who are aging.’ But I have realized that older adults are supported by the people around them, and we can benefit too. We will also age eventually, so preparing for that is important as well.”
Daniel agreed, commenting, “I applaud Keiro for being forward thinkers in encouraging the younger generation to think about things that we haven’t thought about for our families. I am excited to see what you’ll do in the next year with this program.”
Connection with Familiar Strangers
For many attendees, this was the first time they opened up about these topics with peers their age. But ironically, both Daniel and Leslie agreed that because they did not know each other, it was easier to openly talk about these sensitive topics.
Leslie: If you know the person already, it gets more emotional for me, so it’s sometimes harder to talk about these things. But I think conversing with strangers is a little bit easier to talk about certain topics.
Daniel: I agree. It was a good conversation because I did not know the others. I felt I could be a bit more candid with them. With close friends, these topics don’t come up that much anyway, and when they do, they already know your backstory, like you said, Leslie. So not knowing the people in the group as much, it sparks more genuine conversations.
Leslie: It’s genuine because if you know them well, then you start thinking, ‘Was I supposed to say that about my family to them?’ You start holding back some conversation, but you can be more candid and upfront [if they’re strangers].
Daniel: Yeah, if they’re people you know, you think, ‘Who are they gonna tell?’
Culturally-relevant and community-based programs and settings also remain important.
Leslie: Amongst Asian cultures, it is difficult to bring up, like “hey mom, dad, you’re aging, you’re going to die, but you’ve been our superman and superwoman.”
Daniel: While everybody’s families are different, Japanese American families tend to have a certain dynamic. Even though I didn’t know most of the other participants, the fact that we are from the same community made these conversations a little easier. It helps just being able to talk with people who are kind of similar to you, in terms of bouncing ideas off each other.
The Conversations Have Begun
While the caregiving journey is still ahead for Leslie and Daniel, they have made it more of a priority now and understand the benefits of continuing to prepare. And they encourage those in their generation to also participate in the future.
Daniel reflected, “Caregiving and aging are a journey. It’s definitely not linear, but I’m glad I just got started.” Leslie agreed, noting that the seed has now been planted – her parents and family now know she is aware of these different issues. Sometimes that is all it takes to get the conversation started.