Sai Raj Kappari is a Clinical Gerontologist and works in emphasizing the biopsychosocial aspects of aging and its impact on the wellbeing of individuals he serves. He has a PharmD and Master of Science in Gerontology from University of Southern California. Dr. Kappari is the co founder of HEMA.Inc a California based corporation providing resources and expertise for older adult organizations. Dr.Kappari is member of California Longterm Care Association and has developed curricula for community colleges and universities across California. Dr.Kappari believes in empowering youth and providing opportunities for those who are willing to learn and lead in the healthcare industry.
Hanh Brown: [00:00:00] My guest is Sai Raska Pari. He is a clinical gerontologist. And very thankful that he stopped in the middle of his family, travel to join me and the listeners to share his journey in senior, living his earlier career in India and his time at university of Southern California. And then also he spent quite a bit of time, a couple months in Kingsley, senior living community.
[00:01:37] Well, thank you so much to be here. Yeah. So please share with us your journey and how you came to senior living industry.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:01:43] Thank you so much hand on an amazing experience to be able to share some of my core feelings and what I experienced in my life to inspire some of the individuals who might be looking at the senior living as their opportunities for development and growth, then also contribution.
[00:02:00] So my. The story started in 2012 when I was actually doing my doctoral pharmacy in India, I was drafted right after my internship to work with medication consulting group. So the process of it, they were doing a lot of experiences based on medical campaigns. So when they were doing medical camp, they were doing at the time in communities.
[00:02:22] So I was a medication consultant I was doing was being asked to do counseling. It was a retirement community in India. It’s usually call it old age homes. When I was doing it one older lady, maybe in her late sixties, early seventies actually hugged me and kissed me. And I’ve never met her, never been around.
[00:02:42] And she was just so much joy and so much louder. And that changed the whole dynamics of what I look in to. Because it gave me a purpose of working with them. And that’s where I’ve started learning more about what exactly geriatrics gerontology is. Because as you say, you have a transfer may do more. So that was my time.
[00:03:03] So may do more to do something for these individuals who are frail and vulnerable for so many conditions. And with that being said, I was able to take a higher level of responsibility to the next level. When I started working with a title trust in India, which is started by baby Swami Vivekananda. So this church was actually helping poor people and older people as a clinician, I was able to counsel them about what is something I can do for helping them for the medicine management.
[00:03:38] They’re drug, drug interactions, drug interactions, what can be the conditions? Once they have a diagnosis, they come to me and I bring that the counseling, my questions for them always are what is something I can do for you? And what do you think about getting these individuals out of our 75, 80 or solar?
[00:03:58] Some are pretty much 80 to 85, 90 years old, and some are mid age, 55 and 66 too. So I used to ask them, what is that you want to do with your life? And their answers were, I don’t want to be a burden to my family. I don’t want my son or my daughter-in-law or my daughter, or treat me, uh, I really want to die in peace and dignity.
[00:04:23] And that actually shook me around and it made me feel like what is that I can do for these individuals to have that dignity. In the process of transforming to the next level, which is people see debt as something negative, but debt, it can be a celebrity or moment. It can be a transformative moment. It is the most beautiful moment for any individual who sees that way.
[00:04:47] And I try to do the same by providing these resources, parties, individuals who are. Actively dying and have their sense that there was somebody was next to them when they’re doing it. So what made me to be a gerontologist is whole idea of what I can do for these individuals who can’t take care of themselves and provide the resources for the family members and also to the younger generations to do something better or enriching the life of the older adults.
[00:05:18] So that step actually took me to apply for USC. So during the time there was an earthquake in Nepal in 2015. So I was, again being young 26, 27. It was like, let’s just do it. And I went to Nepal on may 11. Then there was a bigger survived one. It was like 7.1 or 7.2, or reach us Carol. I can see so many burnings falling and I found that.
[00:05:46] My purpose is bigger than myself. So I was able to help those people, about 500 families with medications and with water purifying tablets came back to India and it was a bigger process and situation. So I transfer, I just portrayed the same thing to you at scene. And surprisingly, the Dean emeritus, dr.
[00:06:06] Edward Schneider, I was always in constant communication with him about my goal and my role and why I want to be a gerontologist. And he was very supportive and he said, we need these well-rounded students at USC. So when I applied for one, I was able to receive a strong communication with the assistant Dean associate Dean with the professors.
[00:06:28] And I’ve asked them again, I’m from India and from Hyderabad, and I really need to have some kind of scholarship to be able to. Come to the U S and again, studying at USC, it’s a very expensive process as people know about it. So given that I was able to reach out to the right people and they have been interviewed again, and I’ve showed a high amount of interest.
[00:06:52] After the interview that said, I received a scholarship off of Ascot and also USC Davis school fund. So that aided me to come to the us with everything I have. And I just set it off my clinic in India, which was a big step. But I did do that because I was able to look as a bigger purpose than I’m actually.
[00:07:14] And that transitioned me to work with addin Hager, Don up an amazing professor instructional associate professor at USC. During that time, I started working with him as a teaching assistant. So he got me like, there is a place for individuals at USC to live for free and also provide 16 hours of your time as per week as a compensation.
[00:07:37] You’ll be given a room and board and thanks. I was like, I’ll take it. So in August 24th, 2015, I landed in Los Angeles for the first time. And September 21 was the first day I’ve got my job. And October the first I actually got into Kingsley Manor. So Kingsley Manor is a multilevel retirement community.
[00:07:58] It has skilled nursing facility, independent living assisted living. And they also have a mild cognitive impairment unit too. So during the time I was given a beautiful one bedroom apartment to live in and it was facing the Hollywood sign. That is what people say. It’s like your guy from Hyderabad, but now you are in Hollywood.
Hanh Brown: [00:08:25] That’s great, by the way, we’re very blessed to have you here in the U S and in the senior living industry.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:08:30] Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate that. So that gave me an opportunity to be there. Uh, Kingsley Manor, and early in the mornings, usually three times we realize, you know, so my break was started with 170 at whole kissing my cheek.
[00:08:49] And then I was sitting with, uh, three times my age, maybe like one was like 92. One was like hundred, uh, one was 84, 87. There were supermodels. And there were artists, there were directors, editors, professors, and real estate agents, financial advisors. So these were the people who was actually, I was sitting with in a round table every single day with them.
Hanh Brown: [00:09:17] Yes, absolutely wisdom.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:09:18] Yes. I could say a lot of amazing people who are wise and who actually accepted me as I am like. English is my third language and not having that enough communication to reach out to the individual sometimes can be a tricky situation. So they understood that English is not my first language.
[00:09:39] And they were like, this is how it can be pronounced and you can do this well. So. Took me under their wing and they helped me as an individual. And actually I could say they’re transformed in when you are to be able to be more mature and able to attain my true self to the community in itself. And every month we usually used to have birthday parties at the end of the Fridays last Fridays.
[00:10:02] And we used to dance together. So a hundred year old is actually dancing with me. And that actually is what happened with me when I was at Kingsley. And that also showed me what role I was paying in their lives. I feel that I was the one who was doing more to them, but what they understood was I actually was making their lives much more, easier, much more livelier.
[00:10:27] And this is exactly. And what happened with my life. I was thinking like, you guys are enriching my life and why you say that, that I am doing so many things to around me. That even said, it’s just a good feeling. I was able to share two and a half to three years of my time with them and I’m still continue doing it whenever I have a chance of going to Los Angeles and not this very moment of pandemic of COVID, but whenever I have a chance, I usually reach out to them.
Hanh Brown: [00:10:54] You’re a lifelong friend, your adopted parents and grandparents.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:10:58] Absolutely. That is exactly how I felt. Most importantly, I didn’t consider them as my grandparents or family members. I really considered them as my great friends, because those are some of the individuals you can share anything and everything.
[00:11:15] You may not share some of those things with your family members, but I shared many of my. Amazing stories with them. And sometimes whenever I’m down or a little depressed, they always looked into it because it is not easy when living in a retirement community and your loved one is just passed away because of the agent itself.
[00:11:38] So when you are attached to someone, you are losing that person, you actually feel that there is something missing in your life. There are two big stories that Kingsley, which I’ll never forget in my life. One was when I was reading the Hindu Bhagavad Gita to a friend who gave it to me. During the last days of his life, he actually gave me that Hindu scripture.
[00:11:58] And I read those scripture back to him when he was actually passing. And he said, Oh, I’m shanty. And he passed away and I was crying and I couldn’t feel more about what’s like, what happened with my life? Where am I, what am I doing? What is the process? And the second thing was when a hundred year old actually held my hand and she actually passed in my hand and that was something else.
[00:12:22] I was like right there next to her. I admired her all the time. I, I used to dance with her, but when she was passing, I was there with her. So those things I could never forget in my life. And that’s something which brought me to be well adapted to the situation or being the clinical gerontologist.
Hanh Brown: [00:12:43] Thank you for sharing your story.
[00:12:44] It’s very touching and what a great way to make an impact, even though they think you’re helping them, but it’s transformed your life. And again, we’re very blessed to have you making that impact for the older adults and being in this senior living industry, as far as your research. So what did that entail and what was your findings and so forth?
Sai Raj Kappari:[00:13:06] Well, wonderful. Thank you so much for the question. Again at USC, I worked as a senior research associate. My core research was how can we empower the youth to work with older adults while I was working at USC. We did a project called doorway door it’s in generations to generation where the Jewish older adults were sharing their stories on camera.
[00:13:30] And then we showed that to the kids from the Sunday school charter schools and Jewish synagogue schools. So when the kids saw those videos, they made an art form out of it. Because now their stories, they knew about it. So when you know your story, you know me so immediately there was a connection where we introduced these individuals together because they never met them, but they are connected and they were hugging and they were holding on and they would remember they’re shoring and a bonding happened.
[00:13:59] So there is a sense of generativity, like the center, leaving something back to the community and leaving a legacy is what happened. So that brought the research and the team has a very high amount of experience. And I always see that individuals can do more when they’re older, irrespective of their age, what they can actually do is they can help individuals in chili or in Latin America to learn English or any of the language of the skill, because these skills can be taught and many researchers that are actually trying to do that too.
[00:14:31] Los Angeles that is proposing TPA, which says, uh, bilingual education. Most of the Los angles, older adults speak Spanish too. So they can actually be Spanish tutors for children to learn Spanish and they can make some incentivized payments so that they can help their groceries or Uber rides or any of those things.
[00:14:51] Yeah. And that is something which I was doing as part of my research.
Hanh Brown: [00:14:55] You gave them opportunities, entrepreneur and use their skills, whether it’s their language, their expertise, whatever that may be to help others in some income for enjoyment. That’s awesome. That’s a sense of accomplishment for them, right?
[00:15:09] Something for them to look forward to, to continue to contribute.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:15:11] Yes. Again, that is exactly how I feel about the idea of contribution. When your life purpose changes from competition to contribution, it becomes a celebration.
Hanh Brown: [00:15:25] Oh, I love that. I’m going to use that competition to contribution. It becomes a celebration.
[00:15:32] I love that and love it.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:15:36] Again, that is the whole idea of having a sense of purpose, which is driven by a contribution to the community contribution to the society, contribution to the people around you. It can be a single smile that smile can actually transform some individual who might be having a rough day or a wrong day.
[00:15:55] So that brings the very idea of human connection to the next level.
Hanh Brown: [00:15:59] We need this so much right now, but you’re saying that human connection. I mean, I love this. I love that. I mean, my goodness, how else would we have this conversation? This face to face? So I do love technology, the opportunities to make connections, but I got to tell you, we got to get back to that.
[00:16:15] Human, not having technology, a screen between us, but like face to face. We need to get back to that.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:16:22] Again, that is the whole idea of what I feel is having a sense of dignity and grace when there is actually passing and dying because these individuals have so much seen so many things in their world.
[00:16:36] They survived an earthquake in depression, this alive of war, like three or four wires and even recession. Fantastic there. So there’s a wealth of information that are wise. They know what’s happening and you have to respect those individuals who are actually there to provide those to you and they’re giving the best they can.
[00:16:57] And then we have an appreciative heart and sense of gratitude towards it will be much more easier and wonderful in our own self. That is exactly how I feel. And again, there are so many researchers who are actually doing it that I respect all of them. Because while presenting at GSA gerontological society of America or American society of aging, you actually see a amazing amount of researchers who are trying to do something for the older adults.
[00:17:26] Also inspire young professionals. Like I am so. To build that strong connection. So that actually led us to is health education marketing associates in Los Angeles. And Hey, my is also my mother’s name.
[00:17:46] I’m the co-founder. I’m a chief program officer there. We do work with different medical clinics and IPA’s and individual physician associations. My lo is a clinical gerontologists. We do clinical gerontology assessments. It can be MOCA scores or it can be cognitive scores and by the supervision of the doctor himself, and then GAD generalized anxiety disorder and also loneliness scale and MMSC mini mental skill examination.
[00:18:14] So these are the things which we actually do to help the doctor know about what’s happening with the resident are the individual who’s he is seeing. So it gives a important. Factor of spending quality time with a doctor or a physician. So it brings more robustness to clear up all the barriers of those communications to bring quality healthcare to the patient.
[00:18:42] And also a good risk assessment factors for the doctor is that is what my company does in building a strong portfolio for itself.
Hanh Brown: [00:18:51] Congratulation is much needed. And it’s wonderful that you come, not only with your education, but you come with your heart.That’s the biggest,
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:19:01] again, it is all of the sense of contribution.
[00:19:04] Again, when our life purpose from competition to contribution, it becomes a celebration and I wanted to celebrate my life. And the reason I look forward for an individual is that sense of contribution in each other, in each one that has something to do and something to leave to the universe and to the community.
[00:19:24] And it should be done with sense of gratitude and it will be much more easier and happier. Even in the situation, I’ll pause a situation like these situations are pandemics,
Hanh Brown: [00:19:33] right? No, absolutely. I wish there’ll be more folks with a mindset of appreciating, respecting and honoring and celebrating older adults, because I got to tell you, here’s one thing that we have in common, all of us, we’re all aging and we’re all elderly in the making.
[00:19:49] So the earlier that we appreciate and honor and recognize that. Like you said, they come with so much wisdom and stories and a lot of love. So we should absorb all that the sooner, the better, but for many of us and myself included didn’t have the same appreciation until my children were much older. I think we get caught up sometimes with our own lives and get too busy to pause and appreciate the grandparents and so forth.
[00:20:18] But I definitely recommend folks to rethink and refocus. Their attitude towards the older adults. So now as far as senior living and senior living options, what do you hope for it to be? Let’s say 20 plus years from now. And would you consider that for yourself or for your loved ones?
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:20:39] That’s a great question.
[00:20:40] Again, coming from a background of a collectivistic society, which is from India, you have your grandparents around everybody at home, most of the time. So given that as a situation, we can say culture shock of what happened with my life. But when I went to Kingsley, I was able to see the enrichment of these individuals who were on the verge of socially being isolated.
[00:21:05] But now they are socializing themselves. So that created a strong bonding that people who live longer are the one who are happier and the happier have good relationships. And that relationships is what can be bought at any type in any form. So it can be a friend at the same place. It can be a companion, it can be a link with your son or grandson and anybody.
[00:21:29] So whatever makes you feel better is where I personally feel. It should be. I mean back to your question is senior living an option? Yes. There will be an option for individuals who need respite care, who need much of a one-on-one care. It might be possible. It might not be possible if it is possible, like your home stay at home.
[00:21:51] But if it is only possible in a community where it can be. There will be 124 hour supervision and there will be someone always to look in. So I would suggest going for a senior living is a better option than being on your own because you’re enriching your lives and you’re also helping to celebrate around you.
[00:22:07] That is exactly how I felt.
Hanh Brown: [00:22:09] Yeah. I share your sentiment. I feel that way as well. I think most people, myself included should all stay home as long as possible where your health is not jeopardized. And unfortunately there comes a time that maybe home perhaps not be the safest anymore. And that’s something that all children should consider and discuss in the ready for when that time comes, because you don’t want to make a decision and learn about it in where it becomes a crash course of crisis.
[00:22:40] And that’s a very unfortunate, yeah. Well, thank you so much. Is there something else that you would like to share with the listeners?
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:22:48] I just want to say again, having a sense of purpose is important and the sense of purpose in taking care of other individuals improves yourself. It’s like you build yourself by elevating others.
[00:23:00] So you’ll be that particular person. If you can see one, you’ll be the particular person to be that person for the next person. It will enrich your lives. And it happened with me and it will happen with the guy from positive vibe. It can happen with any individual that I see in the muster cinema stay here means.
[00:23:17] The divine in me based perspective and joy for the person inside of you. That is holidays. Thank you so much.
Hanh Brown: [00:23:25] Thank you so much. I really appreciate this. And I’m inspired just listening to you. I love your principal and I will spread that. I will share it with many.
Sai Raj Kappari: [00:23:34] Thank you so much.
Hanh Brown: [00:23:39] Thank you so much.