Seattle-Based NAPCA Serves AAPI Elders across the United States

NAPCA Helpline staff Ya-I Sun and David Pan provide information at a community outreach event in Seattle's International District.

"Before I found NAPCA, I felt like a burden to my daughter. The job training program not only gave me self-confidence, but meaningful employment. Now I keep busy every day and am able to take care of myself."—Former NAPCA Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) participant

Sentiments similar to the one above are shared frequently with National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (commonly called "NAPCA") staff as we work to help limited and non-English speaking Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elders as they age in what can be a very foreign environment.

A national service and advocacy organization committed to the dignity, well-being and quality of life of AAPI elders as they age, NAPCA was founded in Seattle in 1979 when APA advocates saw the growing unmet needs of AAPI seniors. Today, NAPCA serves over 10,000 AAPI seniors nationally through the Seattle headquarters and program offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

In 2005, NAPCA established a national, toll-free Asian language Helpline to help Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese seniors enroll in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans as a result of the Medicare Modernization Act. Annually, the Helpline receives over 9,000 calls with over 1,500 originating from Washington state. Helpline staff assist callers in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese, and address questions regarding eligibility and enrollment in Medicare, Low-Income Subsidy (LIS), Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, and other programs. Helpline hours are Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (Pacific Time).

Khmer-speaking seniors listen to a stroke awareness presentation at a free senior health fair sponsored by NAPCA and the American Heart Association last May.

On average, during the 2010 and 2011 Part D Open Enrollment periods, NAPCA Helpline was able to save callers $838–$1,082 per person by enrolling or helping callers switch Medicare Prescription drug plans during the 2010 and 2011 Part D Open Enrollment periods (see NAPCA Helpline Saves Seniors Money on Prescription Drugs).

Since 1989, NAPCA has been the only national grantee operating the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Through this important older worker employment program, NAPCA partners with over 500 host agencies nationally to help almost 1,000 limited income older adults age 55 and above engage in their communities and learn on-the-job skills that will enable them to live and work within their community in a manner that is appropriate for them.

Whether the need is employment, insurance, health education information and resources, the common thread among the seniors we serve is the desire to improve their own lives and to live more securely, despite daunting poverty rates, growing numbers, and language barriers.

  • 20 percent of AAPI older adults (age 65+) in King County live in poverty, more than double the rate of the total 65+ population (9.4 percent).
  • AAPI older adults (age 65+) grew 65.5 percent from 2000–2010, more than any racial group during this time.
  • Asians in King County have the highest rates of Limited English Proficiency at 36 percent, compared to 11 percent of the total population.
  • 77.5 percent of Asians in King County speak a language other than English at home.  

To address some of these barriers, the NAPCA website is available in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and English. NAPCA also prints its quarterly newsletter and some of its reports in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Some materials have also been translated into Khmer and Samoan. In 2012, NAPCA created a free online Medicare eligibility screening tool in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and English.

NAPCA programs and services are intended to match AAPI seniors in need with the resources that are available to all older adults. For more information, visit www.napca.org.

Contributor Christine Takada is president and CEO of NAPCA. She joined NAPCA in 2005 as National Director of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Previously, Christine worked in Illinois state government for 11 years, including seven years work with Illinois' Asian American community on behalf of two Illinois state governors.