Aegis Living knows its market

By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly

You can easily mistake Aegis on Madison, which held its grand opening this spring, for a five-star hotel or an upscale condo when you walk in. Everything is cozy inside — a grand piano, open dining room, huge fireplace, antiques, stylish chandeliers, and elegant artwork on the walls. It is the newest assisted living building among Aegis Living’s 30-plus facilities. Except it doesn’t look like an assisted living facility.

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Aegis staffer Mitzi Weiland and general manager Rob Liebreich join residents Peggy Garner, Maura Stodola, and Debbie Roth in the dining room. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

One reason has to do with its people. From management to regular employees, they are personable, cheerful, and professional. They address all the residents by their names. They are more like friends to them instead of caretakers.

I was curious about this place because Aegis Living had announced its plan to build a multimillion-dollar Chinese assisted living property, Aegis Gardens at Newcastle, last year. Will the Chinese one be similar to Madison’s? What better person to answer this question than Aegis chairman Dwayne Clark himself?

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Everything is cozy at Aegis. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

“The Chinese one is a step above this one [on Madison Ave.],” said Clark.

Was he joking? I thought the Madison building looked great, but Clark said that the Chinese one is even better.

“We have a mantra,” said Clark. “The last Aegis property just became the minimum standard for the next. What that means is we try to improve everything we do, every time we do it.”

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The fireplace creates a warm atmosphere. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

Aegis Gardens, at a cost of over $40 million to build, will break ground at the end of the year. It is incorporating good feng shui in design. The Aegis team understands what its Chinese clients want.

It has a successful model in California, run by Chinese Americans who speak the language and understand the culture. Of course the game of mahjong is available to residents.

Clark knows that Chinese Americans are picky about food, so he plans to hire Chinese and Asian cooks to prepare daily meals for its residents. The property is not restricted to Asians. People who enjoy Asian culture and food can join, too.

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A grand piano sits just outside the dining room. (Photo by Assunta Ng/NWAW)

I went to check out Madison’s food the other day. General Manager Rob Liebreich invited us for lunch. We ate at a long table with some residents. I had a sandwich and Liebreich had salmon cake. The entrees looked appetizing. At first, I wasn’t really hungry. After a few bites, I was hooked. I practically ate everything on my plate. Afterwards, we learned that the head chef had worked in several big hotels and prominent restaurants.

I sometimes complain about visiting nursing homes because of the smell, but Aegis Madison and other Aegis facilities are clean. I didn’t notice any smells.

I think about my friend who moved to a retirement home in Redmond some years ago. I miss her.

What my friend doesn’t realize is that when she moved outside Seattle, she left her community behind. The fact that she doesn’t drive poses many challenges — she doesn’t attend community events. No matter how much I love to spend time with her, I don’t. Location is important to consider when deciding to live in an assisted living or retirement home. Aegis on Madison is only a 10-minute drive from downtown Seattle, and right on bus lines. For seniors who want to maintain an active social life, downtown living is appealing.

Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) now make up 25 percent of the total U.S. population.

The first wave of Boomers turned 65 last year. By the next decade, that number is going to rise to 40 percent. This is a significant market. Aegis Living is right on target. (end)

Assunta Ng can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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