As one of the groups receiving support through Keiro’s 2019-2020 grant cycle, San Fernando Japanese American Community Center (SFVJACC) had plans to host a series of local day trips to keep their community socially engaged and active. The first trip was planned for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in April 2020. After international news broke about the newly developing COVID-19 pandemic, SFVJACC canceled the trip they had planned, for the safety of all community members.
A Long-Awaited Outing
Fast forward to the middle of 2021, Nancy Oda, a cabinet member at SFVJACC and initial planner of the trip, assessed the local status of COVID-19 cases and decided it was safe to proceed with planning the previously canceled trip. Taking all necessary COVID-19 safety protocols, SFVJACC rescheduled their outing to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, their first in-person gathering since the beginning of the pandemic.
Lois Okui, administrative coordinator at SFVJACC, took on planning and leading this outing. She shared, “We felt the trip would lift [the members’] spirits and help with their mental and emotional wellbeing.” As the focus of Keiro’s grants program is to support programs that reduce isolation and loneliness for older adults, SFVJACC’s long-awaited trip accomplished this goal of bringing the Center’s members back together safely.
In November 2021, older adult members gathered at SFVJACC to check-in and load into a bus to head over to the Reagan Library. Most members had not seen each other in almost 18 months. After arriving, members were welcome to explore the museum with each other at their own leisure. The Reagan Library had various exhibits ranging from highlights of the life of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, an FBI exhibit, a Christmas tree display, and more. All members gathered under the old Air Force One for a nice packaged lunch together. Some continued to explore the Reagan Library after lunch, while others opted to relax and enjoy the beautiful view that the site looked out on.
The Importance of Community Interaction
Although everyone was safely gathered to take a trip to the Reagan Library, the true highlight of the outing was seeing the interactions members were having with each other after not seeing each other for so long. Community member Ruby Yamaoka said, “It was beautiful to be doing something like this again! It was really nice that we got to see all of our friends that we normally see at the Center.”
Throughout the whole day, the atmosphere was filled with conversations of members catching up after so many months apart and enjoying each other’s company. Shirley Yoko Docken, another community member in attendance, happily shared that even though she had the opportunity to drive to the Reagan Library, she chose to take the bus from the Center so that she could spend more time with her friends.
Lois shared her thoughts on the importance of older adults interacting with each other. “The seniors need to stay active and have gatherings like this, especially after one and a half years of the Center being closed. This trip was good for them physically, mentally, and emotionally. We just want to thank Keiro for making it possible to go on this trip.” After the success of this trip, SFVJACC looks forwards to safely hosting more day trips and social gatherings for the older adults in their community.