Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center: Emphasizing Hope During COVID-19

From attitudes about health to better coordination of services, the response to today’s challenges may spur long-range improvements for GBCG and their constituents.

May 7, 2020

Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center logo
Ordinarily, registered nurse Bess Lin would be running the Adult Day Health program at Hong Lok House in Boston, where she provides skilled nursing care to the center’s elderly patients in what they call their “day school.” She would greet each person at the door in the morning and say, “See you tomorrow” to them at the end of the day. But ordinary seems a long way off now.

Hong Lok House is one of three facilities operated by the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center (GBCGAC), which since 1972 has offered culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate programs and services to accommodate the needs of Asian elders so that they can maintain their health and independence. Now the organization’s staff have had to make rapid changes to their routines across the board in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the day center programs have closed and a new telehealth system has been put into place. While rolling it out, staff have also been responding to their elderly patients’ psychological needs. “Providing ongoing reassurance and guidance to all our patients is essential to ensure their safety at home, and thus improve their quality of life at their ‘home school,’” says Lin. According to Lin, the staff not only access the daily telehealth assessment, but also try to share with patients the insight that a positive attitude toward life can be as powerful as any medicine, and let them know that “only by standing together can we stick [it out] to the end.”

GBCGAC’s adult day center workers have had to communicate closely with the case managers from different home care agencies in order to meet patients’ needs, such as requesting home delivery of meals, finding replacements for home health aides or seeking a visiting nurse for skilled care at home. “Never like this before have the health care team members worked so close together to meet our elderly’s needs,” says Lin. Recently she received a call that a patient’s son, his caregiver, had tested positive for COVID-19. “It was shocking for the whole family! The family was seeking help from us. I reported to my direct supervisor immediately, and started to call [the physician], the case manager and the housing officer to coordinate the future care plan. To make a long story short, the patient got tested with a negative result and was placed in a safe environment, cared for by her relatives. It took us total of three days with many phone calls until the patient got settled in good hands.” The links built through that kind of coordination will surely be a benefit in post-pandemic days.

Care and appreciation for one another are silver linings Bess Lin has seen coming from the crisis. “Not long ago,” she recounts, “I dropped off a patient’s weekly medicines. He was wearing a facial mask waiting for me at his apartment doorway. I praised him for keeping his ‘home school’ nice and neat, and he smiled and laughed out loud. He told me, ‘Happiness can cure many illnesses, can’t it?’”


This is one in a series of stories about grantees of the Boston Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. These Greater Boston nonprofits are on the front-lines of our community's response to this crisis. While we are all struggling to cope with the hardships of the coronavirus, these organizations, their leaders and their staff are serving the most vulnerable among us. Boston Indicators, the Boston Foundation’s Research Center, is providing valuable data and analysis for these stories. Visit for more on the COVID-19 Response Fund.