By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When Dwayne Clark, chairman of Aegis Living, first announced in 2011 that he would build Aegis Gardens, an assisted living facility accented with Chinese culture, the community didn’t know what to expect. Some non-Asians might have associated Chinese culture with red, green tiles on the rooftop, and gold trimming along a building.
What does Chinese culture really mean? How can an assisted living venue truly incorporate Asian cultures in substance, and not just on the surface? Aegis Gardens recently celebrated its grand opening at Newcastle. I was blown away not only by the beauty and warmth of the facility, but also its comfortable environment and staff. Its food is top notch. Everything was brilliantly executed.
To illustrate how much thought Aegis put into the process and design, Clark consulted with feng shui masters to ensure harmony with nature. Rich wood tones of nature and a pond, including a pond and zen garden, are featured outside.
Symbolizing wealth, water is key in feng shui. Aegis Gardens is located right next to Lake Boren. Seniors and their friends can walk around the lake during the summer. There are also trails for the public to enjoy.
Coincidentally, Aegis Gardens is located next to China Creek. Through research, Aegis discovered its location’s historical significance. Chinese miners once inhabited the area and were chased out of town. Hence, the name China Creek.
Placing a few Chinese paintings and artwork around the building was not sufficient. Clark sent an interior designer to China to shop, and that designer brought back several pieces of elegant artwork that transformed the facility, especially the entrance. Chinese furniture is placed in several living rooms and corners of the rooms. The whole place looks charming and elegant, including origami cranes in the lobby and mahjong-tile backsplash in a kitchen. It’s original and colorful.
No two pieces of artwork are alike at Aegis. Yet, they fit nicely in every spot.
A team of Asian chefs prepare Chinese food for its residents from entrees to rice, soups to desserts. What Aegis Gardens is capable of is producing an authentic Chinese banquet-style experience with Peking duck, stir-fried scallops, and braised pork belly. I have eaten there thrice. The food was delicious. You can tell the chefs cook with heart and passion.
Former U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, praised the kitchen as “the best Chinese kitchen” in Washington state. It’s state of the art. You can enjoy Chinese barbecue meat or dim sum if you like.
“It’s a very impressive and attractive facility,” said Wayne Lau of Rainier Valley Community Development Fund. “I had a chance to tour the kitchen and I agree with Gary Locke’s assessment, and I‘ve had the chance to see many [kitchens].”
As residents, you can reserve a private room for the whole family to dine. As part of the community, you can also hold events and order food from the venue. The whole idea is to bring community to Aegis. Aegis wants to be a cultural, as well as a community, center. In the future, a day care would be set up, so young and old can fully enjoy the benefits of building a community.
Dick Woo, accountant, whose father-in-law is a resident, said he moved him from a Northgate nursing home to Aegis for better care. He said his in-law was lonely at the old location because he was the only Asian there. There wasn’t anyone who could speak Mandarin and it didn’t serve Asian food.
That’s the complaint of many assisted living quarters — food greatly needs improvement. I once visited my friend in an Everett assisted living facility. The American meal tasted bad, and I felt lousy for my friend. I wish I could have brought Chinese food for her. It’s not necessary for these homes to serve Asian food. All they have to do is to cook the food with a little love.
If you like to enjoy Chinese culture everyday, Aegis is the place. There is the tearoom, movie theater, wellness suite, amphitheater, gaming and crafts room for mahjong, calligraphy, painting, origami, and cribbage. You never get bored.
Someone said the pricing might be a bit high at Aegis. I have seen other high-end assisted living facilities and Aegis offers so much more, except, other high-end facilities don’t have any aspects of Chinese culture in their facility, food or programs.
You can choose what suits your budget — a studio, one bedroom, or two bedroom unit. If you want to live in a great home with great care from a professional staff, and have all the activities to make your retired life fuller, this is the place.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.