Chinatown Property Managers and Service Coordinators “Walk in the Shoes of Elders” With SCAN’s Trading Ages Program

Date Posted: 03/24/2014

(SAN FRANCISCO) – Property managers and service coordinators from Chinatown recently had the opportunity to experience some of the physical and emotional challenges that come with aging. The activity was part of Trading Ages™, a senior-sensitivity training program that was developed and conducted by SCAN Health Plan. The event was co-sponsored by Chinatown Community Development Center, a nonprofit organization that owns and manages 25 properties throughout San Francisco and provides affordable housing to more than 2,000 low-income families and senior citizens. Nearly 20 staff members attended the event including property management and service coordinators.

“SCAN’s program is an ‘eye-opening’ experience for all of us,” said Reverend Norman Fong, executive director of Chinatown Community Development Center. “As an organization committed to providing the best possible service to our community, we are now even better prepared to interact with older adults who may be dealing with aging challenges.”

Trading Ages is an interactive workshop that allows participants to experience firsthand a series of age‐related conditions such as hearing loss, vision changes and loss of dexterity. The training also utilizes tools to accelerate aging and help participants understand how seniors struggle with everyday activities as well as the challenges they face as they maneuver through the healthcare system. Participants are often surprised by how they react to certain physical limitations that are mimicked during the program, and many have commented on what an eye-opening experience it can be.

“The group of people who participated in this training work directly with older adults in the local community,” said Karen Sugano, general manager for SCAN in Northern California. “This is the most rewarding type of training, when you know you’re going to make an impact on people who interact with seniors on a daily basis.”

To simulate experiencing the difficulties of living with arthritis, for example, program participants were asked to don thick, heavy gloves and then try to open medication bottles and handle small pills. Participants also put popcorn in their shoes and walked around to simulate the feeling of painful feet. Others strapped their arm to their side to see how limiting it can be to deal with the effects of a stroke.

Depriving participants of the level of hearing and sight that most people enjoy their entire lives was also a critical part of the program. Ear plugs were used followed by a hearing test to demonstrate how isolating hearing loss can be. Perhaps most difficult for many participants was when they were asked to wear special glasses that severely limited their vision and approximated many of the vision challenges and disorders that accompany aging.

SCAN has been offering aging-sensitivity training to its employees for many years as a way to better understand the needs and mindset of its health plan members. The program is also offered to SCAN board members, physician groups, legislators and businesses to enhance their sensitivity in dealing with older adults.

“As a health plan focused exclusively on the needs of seniors, SCAN is in a unique position to help people understand more about the aging process,” said Sugano.

About SCAN

SCAN Health Plan is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit MAPD plans currently serving 170,000 members in California. Further information may be obtained at or on Facebook at

About Chinatown Community Development Center

Founded in 1977 as two organizations that merged, the Chinatown Community Development Center has become a nationally respected, award winning community development organization that operates 21 affordable housing developments, provides counsel to grassroots organizations, and advocates to improve the community. For more information, please visit

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Sandra Levy
818-597-8453, x-4