By Nestor Licanto
The Leo Palace Resort in Yona is in the midst of a multimillion dollar renovation. Part of its plan calls for a string of assisted living facilities for senior citizens. These are housing units designed to allow the elderly to “age in place,” to live independently in a safe environment.
Dr. Vince Akimoto represents a group that has been looking into the growing need in Guam, and told KUAM News, “Oover the last two and half years the Magas Patriot Group, of which I am a member, has invested half a million dollars in answering that question. We’ve engaged in high level national consultations with experts that build senior homes around the nation, we’ve contracted with Larry Richardson, who’s one of the leading developers in terms of feasibilities and new communities. So we have a feasibility study that speaks to roughly about 529 seniors who have the wealth and the need at this moment to move into senior homes.”
With the aging Baby Boomer population, more and more seniors nationwide are seeking a living option that provides for their basic assistance and care, while maintaining their independence. Akimoto says the first such community, or “silvertown” in Guam is being planned at the Leo Palace. He added,”So there will be wellness benefits, there’ll be recreational benefits, there’ll be food and entertainment benefits that I think will be attractive to everybody. Well these people have earned it.
“They’ve earned the right to live a life of leisure, in a setting, Guam, warm, safe, beautiful, and now with world class competent nursing and medical care, I think it completes the picture, I think it formulates now the reason and the need to move forward.”
Akimoto says a lack of confidence in available medical care on Guam has long been a limiting factor. But he believes the quality of local physicians and facilities is now on par with US standards, and that is the difference maker, adding, “I think the good news today, the breaking news, is that medical care on Guam is now at that point of maturity where delivering excellent medical care to seniors, who let’s face it, know they’re not going to live forever, they just want to live their lives well, at the very end. And I don’t think that means spending lots of medical dollars in a hospital futilely chasing after perfection.”
The senior facilities that are being planned at Leo Palace will be retrofitted specifically to meet the needs and limitations that generally come with aging. Akimoto said, “These are people with some disability, or some need because of their age. Again these people would be in their 70’s and 80’s, and depending on their physical frailties we definitely have to make an accommodation. And the building would be customized for that kind of a lifestyle. And certainly too the kinds of entertainment, the kind of music, the kind of food, all of that has to be customized to make sure that the seniors have a good life.”
The Leo Palace Resort first opened in the early 1990’s. Part of its offering were vacation or retirement homes for well-off Japanese seniors. So the proposed elderly assisted living units will be a return of sorts to the resort’s roots, as the physician noted, “Leo Palace is famous for being home to a lot of the visiting Japanese who prefer to be living this kind of lifestyle on a tropical island so really the other market, the Japanese market, has its own particular needs. That’s why we enlisted Dr. Margaret Hattori from the School of Nursing at the University of Guam to be one of our lead consultants in developing multi-cultural and very sensitively developed programs for Japanese, for Koreans, for the Filipino, for the Chamorro, for the American, literally for as much as possible all of us that live here and call Guam home.”
While Akimoto’s group has identified more than 500 Guamanian seniors who might be interested in living at the Leo Palace, he believes there may be many more potential clients region-wide – especially in Japan, which has an aging population that makes it among the grayest of all countries. “Right now Japan is bursting at the seams in terms of its ability to take care of its existing seniors. Its currently of all nations in the developed world, the grayest, so they’re facing a real serious problem., but meanwhile, just a little further to the west is China. And China is evolving as the largest in demand in medical care and senior care.
“And I think Guam’s position in the pacific is excellent for growing our version of senior care, and it starts today.”
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