By Nan Nan Liu
Northwest Asian Weekly
“It is very important for us [to live in a Chinese-speaking community],” said Jing Liu. “We are coming from China, and we don’t speak too much English. We can speak everyday English, but we cannot exchange thoughts.”
Liu currently lives in Texas and is approaching retirement age. She plans to move to Seattle next year to join her family. As someone who constantly thinks of her future, Liu foresees the possibility that she might need to enter a retirement home. She will be happy to know that Aegis Living, one of the nation’s leading retirement care facilities, is adding one more compound to 40 properties on the West Coast. The difference with this new facility is that it’s all Chinese.
Why an all-Chinese facility?
“[Aegis Living’s first] all-Chinese for-profit is located in Fremont, Calif.,” informed Dwayne Clark, founder and CEO of Aegis Living. “It is the first [all-Chinese retirement home] in the U.S.”
Ten years after its opening, Aegis in Fremont was a raving success.
“[Our facility in Fremont] is 100 percent occupied,” said Clark, It has more than 10 years of experience in the Chinese community in San Francisco. Our executive [group was] voted as one of the top. [The facility has] the best food in the company.”
Because of the Fremont facility’s success, as well as a growing number of Chinese immigrants in Seattle, locals requested something similar in the area. Aegis is headquartered in Redmond.
“We [conducted] demographic studies [on] 70,000 Chinese and Taiwanese … a lot of people liked the Eastside,” said Clark.
After much consideration, Clark decided to develop another all-Chinese facility in Newcastle.
“We are in the development process,” said Clark. “Breaking ground [will take place] in 16 months.”
What the new facility will have to offer
From among various Eastside properties, Clark chose one of the most beautiful and serene settings. The new facility is being developed on a lake and next to a creek — coincidentally named “China Creek” — where residents can bike and take walks.
“The natural setting of the property is wonderful,” said Michael Derr, vice president of development at Aegis Living. “But it is also located within a block of the commercial center of Newcastle, which includes a new King County Library, the new Valley Medical Center Clinic, and wonderful restaurants and other shopping. Of course, the Newcastle Golf Club is right up the hill. So this location should have something to offer to just about everyone.”
“It is an incredible piece of land,” added Clark, “[an] incredible setting.”
The real reason to consider Aegis in Newcastle, however, lies in the excellent services that will be offered by the facility itself.
“As beautiful as our building and landscaping will be, the true luxury will be delivered by our caring and conscientious staff,” said Derr.
During research, Clark realized that “a lot of people liked [something] independent and upscale, so we thought we would create a luxury brand.”
The luxury brand will include a professional chef, various programs, including intergenerational programs, a trained staff that speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, and an incomparable medical facility with a “state of the art dementia wing.”
To look out for the interest of its occupants, the Newcastle facility has appointed a “full Chinese advisory board [that is] sensitive to cultural issues.”
“[This will be] a great epicenter for the Eastside Chinese community,” stressed Clark. “[It will include] Chinese daycare, intergeneration exchanges, and sliding exchanges.”
“Aegis takes pride in creating a sense of family and community at each of our properties, and we believe we are uniquely suited to serve the communities of Factoria, Somerset, Newcastle, and Renton to create a place that can be a home as well as a community gathering spot and a cultural hub of activity.”
“Aegis has contacted us regarding their plan to build such a facility on the Eastside,” Kin On CEO Sam Wan wrote in an e-mail. Kin On is an organization that supports the elderly and adults in the Seattle Asian community. “We were happy to share with them our experience in developing Kin On and serving our community in the past 27 years. With the increase in senior populations in our community, it’s good to know that Aegis is planning for such a facility. Kin On is looking forward to coordinate with them to better serve our elders.”
Derr, who has more than nine years of experience developing similar facilities, plans to “take full advantage of the expansive grounds of the property and our access to Lake Boren to create a light-filled and spacious interior that will provide natural enjoyment no matter the season or the weather.”
“[The new facility will have] over 100 rooms to accommodate 120 to 130 residents,” said Clark.
In addition to building the necessary components, Aegis Living has begun paying attention to details to ensure the facility’s cultural uniqueness. Its address, for example, was changed to lucky numbers that are considered auspicious to Chinese. Aegis also hired a Feng Shui consultant to make every space tranquil and desirable. In parallel with developing the facility, staff is undergoing training that will execute all protocols in Chinese.
“We went through a lot of learning curves in order to perform this,” said Clark, who admits that although it was difficult at times, it’s all worth it because of what the new facility will stand for, “Seattle is our home, and we want to do this for the Seattle community.”
Although development has just started and is only in the design phase, according to Clark, there is already high interest from Eastside residents. Some have even paid deposits that are currently “fully refundable.” (end)
Nan Nan Liu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.