From learning to elevating and fostering socialization

Dorothy Kirkland is an Elder at First Presbyterian Church Altadena, and she works with other congregation members to support the church’s senior ministry. For the past six years, Dorothy has been an active participant in many of the congregation’s events, including Keiro’s programs. 

She recalled, “Although our church frequently offered workshops to our seniors, Keiro’s courses are more closely focused on information [that is] relevant to older adults in the Japanese American and Japanese community. This has been an added plus for our members who participate in these Keiro courses.”

Dorothy has participated in nearly all of the courses Keiro offers, from Memory Kai to the Diabetes Self-Management Program and A Matter Balance. But she has found the Introduction to iPad and AARP Safe Driver courses to be the most impactful. “The Introduction to iPad course definitely broke the language barrier between my new iPad and me, and it is now my new best friend,” said Dorothy. The class gave her the basic tools and confidence to then expand her usage of her iPad beyond emails, taking photos, and connecting to the internet. “Now I download books, music, and podcasts; pay bills; watch movies; and get weather reports. And I’m still learning.”

Similarly, refreshing familiar knowledge was another benefit of Keiro’s classes. Through the AARP Safe Driver Course, facilitated by Keiro, Dorothy was able to change her driving habits, commenting, “I had not realized how aging inhibits one’s driving abilities.” She has now become more careful when switching lanes and backing up, and consciously avoids heavy traffic areas where people may be in a hurry or stressed out. She is also aware that she has a slower reaction time and a limited depth perception now, which helps her better understand her capabilities.

Through collaboration with Keiro, Dorothy also familiarized herself with a prevalent issue among older adults: social isolation. Learning how important socialization is to one’s health, as a church Elder, she has prioritized bringing older members out to community events more frequently.

Dorothy said, “the most unexpected benefits in Keiro’s courses had to do with the opportunity for older adults to socialize with friends and, meet new friends in the community. But most of all, to realize that there are people and organizations who care about them and are committed to offer activities and programs designed to enhance their quality of life.”

 “That’s the intangible benefits of participating in the Keiro classes,” she emphasized. What they learned from Keiro motivated Dorothy and other church volunteers to start their own programming, such as the Otomodachi Outreach Project, partially supported by the Keiro Grants Program. Dorothy has found ways to not only help herself as she ages, but other congregation and community members too.

Read Roy Onishi’s story of alternative transportation

Read Gini Ishida’s story of designing a program at First Presbyterian Church of Altadena

Read Kay Yamada’s story of learning advanced iPad techniques