By Kai Curry
Northwest Asian Weekly
Kin On in Seattle takes pride in its offering of culturally sensitive senior care, which includes Asian meals and bilingual staff. Ketty Hsieh, who took over as CEO in June 2022, was happy to leave corporate America to join Kin On.
“It was the right place at the right time. I was already on the board…I knew about the mission. It has a great reputation in the community, a lot of community support, and then, they’re so close to home!”
It is fortuitous when your workplace aligns with your values and background, and is also just a mile or so from your home in the Seward Park neighborhood, where Hsieh and her family have lived for about 20 years. Hsieh came to Seattle in 2001 with her husband, a software developer for Expedia, and they moved into their current house in 2002. Both of her daughters attended Washington Middle School, where her youngest is now, while the oldest has since graduated from Garfield High School and gone on to school in Los Angeles.
“Interestingly, first, she wanted to study sociology and public health,” Hsieh told us of her oldest. “Now, she wants to double major in economics. I’m laughing at her: ‘You’re just following in your mom’s footsteps!’ She’s very interested in public health. I don’t know why. Maybe I talked too much at the dinner table,” Hsieh laughed.
Most of Hsieh’s career has been in finance and transportation, although the past 13 years she has spent in healthcare, in both the acute and outpatient areas. She was with Washington Mutual when they were seized by the United States Office of Thrift Supervision in 2008—or “until the bitter end,” as she describes it, and this experience taught her how to lead in times of crisis.
Born in Taiwan, Hsieh’s family moved to Hong Kong when she was a child.
“I say that I grew up in Hong Kong, especially during my formative years,” Hsieh told the Weekly. When she was almost 17 years old, her family immigrated to Toronto, Canada. After coming to the United States to attend graduate school at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Hsieh stayed. She met her husband, a first generation Norwegian, who also came to the United States to study.
“Here in Seattle, all the people say, ‘I’m a Norwegian, too,’…he actually came here for grad school.”
Although she speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, and always supposed she would find a job related to her cultural roots, it never quite happened, except for a brief period when she worked for American Airlines in Dallas, her first big professional gig.
“That’s a unique skillset I could apply to my professional life,” Hsieh realized. Her last position prior to Kin On was with OPTUM as vice president of finance. After a full career in Fortune 500 companies that also included Greyhound and Alaska Airlines, as well as Providence and Kaiser in healthcare, when the opening for Kin On CEO came up, Hsieh was ready to do “something tied more to my heritage,” as well as something more meaningful.
She was also drawn to the chance to work with seniors, with her own mother living alone back in Taiwan, now that Hsieh’s father has passed away.
“Even if they don’t live in this country, I can relate to the challenges of having to care for older parents, or making sure that your older parents are in a place where they are receiving great care.”
Hsieh is confident that, at Kin On, great care is exactly what their residents and home care participants receive. She is proud of the “full spectrum” of care that Kin On offers, from home care to assisted living to long-term care. Recently, she recommended Kin On to an acquaintance who was looking for a place for his mother to stay.
“I can truly tell him that his mother will be well taken care of in a facility, or at home in a facility, where it’s culturally…appropriate and that she’ll feel comfortable,” Hsieh said.
She is especially excited about the Healthy Living program at Kin On. Very active and health-conscious herself—she and her husband run, ski, bike, and hike together—Hsieh is adamant that “healthcare starts with health, and that Kin On’s Healthy Living program gives people “the tools and opportunities to stay healthy.” These community-based programs help seniors stay healthy by way of seminars and classes offered online, as hybrid activities, and in person. Examples might be a session on fire safety from the Fire Department during the summer, or repeat offerings from Kin On’s own onsite doctor, who is “also very passionate about this.” There are dance classes, qigong, ping pong, and mahjong, all of which offer seniors a chance to socialize.
Kin On’s meals, as one of their most distinctive features, derive from Asian recipes, the appropriateness of which Hsieh feels she can relate to more and more as she gets older.
“I don’t want to go and have really fancy meals, like a French restaurant or whatever,” she told the Weekly. Instead, she wants to have homestyle cooking.
“I think about my own mother…It would be fun for her to eat a salad or a pizza or a hamburger once in a while…but not every day…She would not be happy.” To prove this point, Hsieh’s own favorite restaurant is Din Tai Fung, “because it’s home.” The original restaurant in Taiwan is less than a 30-minute walk from where her mother lives now. “It’s comfort food for me.”
Hsieh loves the diversity of Seattle and especially of her neighborhood and the zip code which is the most diverse in terms of race and socioeconomic status in the entire nation. She recalls that sometimes being in Dallas, and being one half of a multiracial couple, with mixed race kids, was challenging; whereas now, she and her family are surrounded by diversity.
“When my kids went to the neighborhood elementary school, we would go to this amazing heritage night…There were like 37 different languages spoken [and] families from all these different countries. It was truly amazing. I think that’s what we like about Seattle…We feel very comfortable here.”
“Honestly, this position, even five years earlier, I probably would not have made the jump,” Hsieh shared. “I wasn’t done with corporate America yet. This move makes sense for me.”
Kai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.