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Located just a few blocks from Sawtelle and Little Osaka, OPICA Adult Day Care Center has been serving adults challenged with memory loss for more than 35 years. Providing a range of supportive services to those affected by memory loss and their families, OPICA also provides a unique sense of community for its Japanese members. Every Wednesday, the Nisei group, made up of eight to 12 Japanese American and Japanese older adults, come together to enjoy Japanese snacks and tea while sharing experiences, stories, and songs from the past. While some members of OPICA go to the center more frequently, Wednesdays are particularly special for the Nisei group: the arts and crafts room is set aside for them to meet on their own to spend time with their Japanese peers and take part in different cultural activities.
Juliet Yeh, a licensed social worker who helps run and maintain the cultural relevance of the program, started this group in 2009 for the Japanese members of OPICA. Juliet cited the Nisei group as the reason many members choose to come to OPICA, to socialize with each other and share in conversations and art exercises. Although the program has evolved over time, Juliet said the members dictate how the Nisei group spends their time together. Activities range from arts and crafts, to lessons in Japanese and kanji, to round-robin discussions about childhood and growing up. One member, George, acts as a Japanese language teacher and writes each person’s name in kanji while also translating what their name means. It is a shared space where everyone can speak freely and interact with peers of similar backgrounds.
Ranging in age from 62 to 100 years old, members come together to share their life experiences and stories. During the visit, a married couple shared the story of how they met and their travels together. While discussing hobbies, another member also started singing a famous Japanese folk song, Kōjō no Tsuki (The Moon over the Ruined Castle) and other members began singing along. A special atmosphere was created in the room, as some members noted that they had not heard the song since their childhood — but they all remembered the lyrics.
Although members of OPICA’s program are affected by some form of memory loss, it is wonderful to see the participants remembering old songs and memories from the past. Having this program at OPICA provides an opportunity for Japanese American and Japanese older adults to come together to reminisce and talk about life in a setting that may otherwise not be possible. The Nisei group and the staff at OPICA care deeply about providing these special social interactions with this aging population, and members of the group enjoy having an opportunity to spend time with each other.
OPICA also offers services for caregivers in the form of support groups and resources. The time spent at the Day Care Center can also provide much-needed respite for the caregivers, while those affected by memory loss enjoy their social interactions. Keiro is proud to work with and support the great work that OPICA is doing to serve the Japanese American and Japanese older adults and their caregivers in the West LA area.
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