Tonari Gumi’s Lighthouse “Iki Iki” Program Has Expanded!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHelping seniors has always been Tonari Gumi’s main mission, but since July 2014 when Tonari Gumi received a federal government grant under its New Horizons for Seniors program, Tonari Gumi’s involvement with helping seniors who are frail, handicapped or suffering from early stages of dementia has increased significantly. We could have described it as having increased by “leaps and bounds”, but that seemed inconsistent with the fact that we are helping seniors who need activities that are geared to their specific conditions, which in most cases requires activities that go more slowly and very few of them can “bound” anywhere.

However, while their bodies may require them to move more slowly and deliberately, it doesn’t mean that their minds can’t “leap” to new levels. Even when some are experiencing early stages of dementia, they are still interested in “stretching” their abilities.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This has meant that we need a lot more volunteers to assist our seniors in the program. At the same time, the program has provided more opportunities for our volunteers to relate more closely with our seniors and to help them more individually.  The key to Tonari Gumi’s version of the “Iki Iki” (or lively, lively) program is the tailoring of the program to meet the individual needs of each of the participants. In so doing, we are able to shed light on each participant’s abilities and help them to try more things—just like a lighthouse helps ships to move forward, even when the way is obscured by fog and storms. In our case, the way may be made more difficult due to physical weaknesses or mental cloudiness as a result of dementia. By engaging in both physical exercise and social inter-action, the participating seniors are able to enhance the quality of their life and possibly delay the on-set of more serious problems from dementia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other positive aspect of the Lighthouse “Iki Iki” Program is that it lasts for five hours twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays, with a wholesome Japanese-style lunch included. This then provides a period of respite for caregivers, who can be assured that their seniors are being well looked after during this period.

Originally, Tonari Gumi’s Lighthouse “Iki Iki” started with four seniors, one staff member and three volunteers, meeting only on Wednesdays.水曜日9月17日 Today, that one staff member is working with nearly a dozen volunteers and some 21 participating seniors. The program now runs twice a week, on both Mondays and Wednesdays, enabling more seniors to become involved. Tonari Gumi’s program also works in conjunction with the Iki Iki programs being held at Nikkei Place in Burnaby and the Steveston Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. However, Tonari Gumi’s program is now the largest with the most participants. We’re excited that we are able to extend a helping hand to so many seniors who need a more relaxed program.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Tonari Gumi at 604-687-2172 or e-mail at Caregivers and individuals interested in becoming involved in Tonari Gumi’s Lighthouse “Iki Iki” Program should contact Masako Arima at Tonari Gumi for more information.

New Faces at Tonari Gumi!

Many of you have probably noticed some new faces among Tonari Gumi’s staff over the past couple of months, but haven’t introduced them to everyone. For that, we apologize and hope to make amends for this oversight.

DSC_0385First, we should introduce Kumi Kakinuma who is our new Office Administrative Assistant, who in March of this year, replaced our long-time office assistant, Junko Takashima. Originally, Kumi comes from Chiba Prefecture but has lived in Canada for some 26 years. She originally volunteered for Tonari Gumi helping to prepare meals for the seniors at Cooper Place many years ago, but now that her children have more or less grown up, she has decided to come back to Tonari Gumi as a staff member. Her hobbies include tennis, circuit training, yoga, etc. Kumi is motivated and loves to interact with the seniors. Make sure that you say hi the next time you come by the office.

Second, Izumi Tagawa Kafetzis is our newest staff member, having started at Tonari Gumi in April of this year, to serve as a part-time coordinator for Tonari Gumi’s new “Senior Tech2Go Program” where Izumi is teaching seniors to help other seniors to use tablet computers.DSC_0384 Izumi is already known to many within Tonari Gumi as she has been teaching seniors how to use tablet computer as a volunteer. Now, she is going to be able to take that teaching to another level as a staff member. Izumi is from Mie Prefecture and has been in Canada since 2004. She loves working with our seniors and will now have a chance to work with seniors in other parts of the Japanese Canadian community as the “Senior Tech2Go Program” expands to Nikkei Place and the Steveston Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre later this year.

Photo-Artists Emerge at Tonari Gumi!

IMG_0895Over the past three months, Tonari Gumi partnered with Emiko Morita in her “PhotoVoice” project which consisted of some 10 workshops held at Tonari Gumi, where our seniors developed skills in photography and storytelling. The camera (whether a small hand-held camera, a tablet camera or a cell phone camera) became a tool, empowering the seniors so they could express themselves and share their stories and perspectives. Tonari Gumi is excited that it was able to partner with Emiko Morita in carrying out this project to help our seniors to connect in yet another way with their friends and relatives._9740429 Some of the photos created by the group are displayed at Tonari Gumi and the display is open to the public.


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