More Options for Aging - Greenhaven Terrace Expands to Include Assisted Living

Inside Publications, R.E Graswich

May 4, 2014

The paint is fresh, the floors newly covered with wood laminate. Soon it will be time to open a redesigned wing at Asian Community Center’s Greenhaven Terrace. A bushel of new services are ready for inspection and state certification.

Time never stands still at ACC, a nonprofit organization in the Pocket that provides living facilities and services for older adults. The official ACC clock starts at age 62. But these days, 62 is nothing. Which means many clients can anticipate—who knows?—30 years of life beneath the ACC umbrella.

“We often hear from adult children who say it’s getting to be time for Mom to make the transition into assisted living,” says Donna Yee, the center’s chief executive. “We tell them, ‘Well, these transitions can easily take 10 years, and 10 years really isn’t very long.’ They say, ‘Ten years?’ They seem shocked.” No human experience is more natural than growing older. It happens every day, every minute, to everybody. But for many people, no experience is more ominous than the contemplation of time’s advance. This is where Asian Community Center comes in. ACC serves an amazingly diverse swath of human maturity, potentially for one-third of a client's life span.

Some residential clients (no, you don’t have to be Asian) have full-time jobs. While they call Greenhaven Terrace home, they come and go. Others require full-time care from professional staff at the ACC Care Center, about a mile from Greenhaven Terrace. Others are in the middle. “There’s no one-size-fits-all anymore in elder care,” Yee says. “It used to be elderly people were invisible in our communities. They would be getting along fine, then have a fall or something, move into skilled nursing and never be seen again. Today, they can be vital members of the community well into their 80s and even 90s.” The visible vitality of seniors is a key goal for ACC. Each month, ACC volunteers—themselves deep into Social Security range—make 4,000 trips around the Pocket and Greenhaven neighborhoods and beyond, taking clients on shopping or social excursions and to doctor or dental appointments.

Volunteers are such an essential part of the ACC experience that a Volunteer Hall of Fame was established. Twenty years of service are required to qualify. More than 80 volunteers have made the cut. “Maybe we should make it 40 years,” Yee jokes. The middle ground—the space between completely self-sufficient seniors and those who need skilled nursing—is the brave new world of elder care. It’s why ACC recently upgraded Greenhaven Terrace and shifted some of its 144 apartments from fully independent lifestyles to assisted living. “It’s a process that we all go through as we age,” Yee says. “Maybe there’s a medical reason why you need someone to check on you and help with meals or meds. But you don’t need full-time skilled nursing. That’s the benefit of having an assisted-living option.” Yee, who has been interested in elder care since her undergraduate days at San Francisco State, earned a Ph.D. in the field. She spent years in the disciplines of elder research and nursing home compliance but was ultimately drawn to direct care, the hands-on mission of Asian Community Center.

Today, her past academic and professional work serves Yee on a daily basis. So does her training in social work. Much of Yee’s time is spent dealing with family members. The relationship can be precious. “We consider the entire family to be our client,” she says. “The family can be a big part of the successful experience for our residents. Adult children often have many issues when dealing with an elderly parent. Sometimes, they will say, ‘What do you mean, I have to go to class to learn how to take care of Mom?’ But there really is a lot to learn.”

Despite enlightened approaches to aging and resources available to seniors, it’s still not easy to grow old. People arrive at ACC full of fear and apprehension. Some are motivated by loneliness, some urged into senior residency by family members who don’t want to see Dad alone, rattling around his house. Many simply want to live somewhere that’s safe and friendly. Which means they come to ACC for all the normal reasons. Normalcy pervades the sprawling Greenhaven Terrace complex on Corporate Way. There are bingo games and workout equipment and yoga classes and a community garden. There are arguments about people growing flowers in the community garden. (Some Terrace residents believe the garden should be for vegetables only. They work it out.) To see the common vitalities of life at ACC’s Greenhaven Terrace is to know this: Getting old is the ultimate norm, and far better than the alternative.

For more information about Asian Community Center, go to

R.E. Graswich can be reached at

This article was taken from Inside Publications (May 2014) - More Options for Aging: Greenhaven Terrace Expands to Include Assisted Living.