Cherishing our Kupuna


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Food, independence, shelter-All are so easily taken for granted. But they also are very real issues some of Hawai‘i’s senior citizens encounter daily. So, at a time when Hawai‘i’s elderly population is steadily growing, senior services are more important now than ever. Here, HILuxury takes a look at three such organizations working with Hawai‘i’s kupuna community.

Catholic Charities Hawai‘i
Diane Terada, Catholic Charities Hawai‘i community and senior services division administrator, has noticed something about today’s kupuna: “People who maybe 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, who might have been in a nursing home or care home, are now living at home.”

And, she adds, there are a growing number of those who are frail.

It has become increasingly important then, to allow seniors some independence while still looking out for their best interests—especially when some caregivers are unable to provide around-the-clock care or are living off-island. It is an area of concern that Catholic Charities Hawai‘i seeks to address.

“Our primary goal of all of our senior services is to help people remain in the community and out of institutional settings for as long as possible,” Terada says.

Annually, Catholic Charities Hawai‘i works with more than 4,000 seniors. Its programs include access care, including transportation services, in-home assistance or even help with affordable housing.

The organization also stresses the importance of social wellness through its Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center. Th ere, a variety of recreational and educational classes and social services are available from Monday through Friday, and on Saturday mornings twice a month. Classes have taught seniors everything from tai chi for fall prevention, to yoga and how to use Skype on an iPad.

“I’ve been reading studies recently about loneliness,” Terada shares. “[It] is an issue that actually increases healthcare utilization, and so, the Senior Center is one way in which that kind of need can be met.”

Institute For Human Services
For Hawai‘i’s homeless, the Institute for Human Services (IHS) often serves as a haven. Th is is no different for seniors who turn to the organization for help.

“We’re typically the first step out of homelessness, and then, we connect them with all these other service providers,” explains Kimo Carvalho, director of community relations, of the organization’s many partnerships with other local nonprofit agencies.

Last fiscal year, for instance, it helped approximately 129 seniors, all over the age of 62, who utilized its shelter. And it isn’t only at the shelter that homeless seniors are able to receive assistance. On-foot case managers and outreach workers often go directly into the community to find, assist and house homeless individuals.

“Homeless service providers like IHS are extremely important to Hawai‘i’s community, because we are the safety net resource to assist those who are at-risk or who become homeless,” Carvalho says.

The organization also offers other services, like a shuttle that brings homeless to the shelter, where they may make use of the dorm and receive a meal, clothing or even a snack. IHS also offers assistance with healthcare, employment and social security, among many necessities.

Ultimately, there is no limit to how long a person may stay at IHS’ shelter, so long as they are making improvements to stay off the streets.

“IHS is able to provide seniors [and others] with the proper healthcare, employment assistance, emergency shelter, daily meals and housing subsidies/placement that ultimately ends and prevents their homeless situation,” Carvalho says.


Six days a week, from Monday through Saturday, Lanakila Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver meals to more than 2,000 seniors on O‘ahu. As the island’s largest program of its kind, Lanakila Pacific provides Hawai‘i residents with more than 250,000 meals annually.

The organization’s Lanakila Kitchen prepares the majority of the meals, and hot items are delivered once daily. Complete meals, which include frozen dishes and other components like bread, fruit and milk, also provide enough food for five additional servings.

Many people who receive these services are homebound, alone, and often are suffering from chronic health conditions. Sometimes, the only interaction they may have with another person is with the volunteer who delivers their meal.

Hence, a nutritious meal is not the only thing that Lanakila Meals on Wheels provides to participants.

“They’re also providing some personal contact, so that the senior is not isolated,” says Lyn Moku, program director.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels, therefore, heavily relies on volunteers, which Moku notes they always are in need of—especially from Monday through Friday. Plus, the interaction volunteers provide to seniors isn’t merely social. It also is through these visits that the organization ensures seniors have access to whatever resources they may need, in order to live at home for as long as possible—and, Moku adds, with dignity.

At a time when Moku sees that Hawai‘i’s number of kupuna is rapidly growing, services like Lanakila Meals on Wheels are vital.

“We don’t really have an infrastructure to provide all the services this booming population needs,” she says. “Th e kupuna care services are very important, both for our seniors and family members, because without these support services, we don’t know what will happen to seniors.”

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