Kin On demonstrates respect for both elders and families

By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly

Kin On Health Care Center was founded in 1986 and helps Chinese elders. (Photo provided by Kin On)

The motto at the Kin On Health Care Center is “The residents are the center of our attention.”

In Asian culture, families traditionally provide care to their elders at home. In 1985, the Chinese Nursing Home Society found that this was not always the case. Their surveys estimated that 20 to 30 Chinese elders lived in nursing homes throughout the Seattle area.

Because these elders spoke little to no English, they were helpless as the non-Asian, English-speaking residents enjoyed a better quality of life.

“Kin On opened its doors (on June 28, 1986) as the first nursing home in the United States [owned and run by Chinese community members], providing services for elderly Chinese in need of nursing care, which included Chinese meals and staff members who speak their language,” said Sue Mar, a Kin On volunteer.

In addition to Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, Kin On Health Care Center’s 140 residents can be found speaking Taiwanese, Japanese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Cambodian, or Korean.

Kin On Nursing Home, its original name, accepted its first resident on July 23, 1987.

At a cost of $11 million, the Kin On Health Care Center — located at 4416 South Brandon Street in Seattle — was newly completed and accepted its first resident on Oct. 1, 1996. The 52,000-square-foot facility — designed by Tsang Partnership Architectural, Inc. — is on the ground floor with its kitchen one floor below.

With a garden at its center, it was designed using the principles of feng shui, the Chinese practice of design that encourages the flow of positive energy. It took Pacific Components, Inc. one year to finish construction of the facility.

Within six months, the 100-bed facility reached full occupancy.

But what makes the Kin On Health Care Center special is its ability to bring “different segments of the Chinese community” — American-born and foreign-born, rich and poor, young and old — “together for one common goal, to take care of our elders,” said Sam Wan, chief executive officer of Kin On Health Care Center and Kin On’s Community Care Network.

“Compared to other nursing homes, I think we have many more visitors, particularly on the weekends, on holidays, as well as during meal time. Many family members come to visit their loved ones. I think we do have a lot more participation and involvement from family members.”

Kin On has exceeded its goal of delivering quality healthcare over the past 25 years. Its awards include one given by the Washington State Nursing Home Advisory Council in 1991 for having excellent survey records between 1989 and 1991. The Washington Association of Homes for the Aging honored Kin On with an Exceptional Performance Award in 1992 and in 1993.

In 1995, Kin On was nationally recognized with the Hobart Jackson Social Responsibility Award from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

It received the 2005 Award for Community Service from the Asian Bar Association of Washington. The award recognized Kin On’s efforts in serving the local Asian American community. During the same year, its employees won the Best Performance Award for Workers’ Safety from the Washington Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

David Tsang has worked as a social service coordinator at Kin On Health Care Center for almost six years. He said, “We usually have a daily schedule for all of the planned activities.” They include such activities as exercise, card games, bingo, and singing.

Tsang says the Nintendo Wii has enabled residents to enjoy bowling at the Kin On Health Care Center.

In addition, many birthday parties are celebrated with family members. In September, 18 residents will be celebrating their birthdays. Their ages range from 76 to 104.

He feels that respect for elders is what makes the Kin On Health Care Center unique. “In the Asian population, I think respect for the elderly is a value that is ingrained in the culture. So, I think we want to perpetuate that right here,” said Tsang. ♦

For more information about the Kin On Health Care Center or Kin On’s Community Care Network, go to

Meet Kin On’s staff members at our Pioneers in Healthcare awards banquet.

James Tabafunda can be reached at

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