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Challenges facing our Kupunas here in Hawaii

Hawaii is facing what is popularly referred to as the “Silver Tsunami” fueled primarily by the “Baby-Boomer” generation who are turning 65 years of age and older at an alarming rate.

When it comes to caring for our senior citizen parents or grandparents, some of the issues involved can be quite difficult and full of tough decisions.  Our seniors are faced with unique medical and lifestyle issues that call upon them and those close to them to seek solutions that they can safely live with.  Some of our elders go through denial and depression surrounding their circumstances, some go through acceptance, still majority have experienced anger. While there are stages of triggers that one goes through, we as a society can help alleviate the impact of this reality.

As senior citizens continue to age, they have some very real needs that must be attended to at the federal governmental level. Most of them are reliant on the Social Security System and the Medicare and Medicaid as source of assistance. However, it does not help their situation when there have been numerous attempts by ambitious politicians to try and shut down these programs. We obviously need to see these issues defended for the sake of our vulnerable kupunas as these programs are so important to them.

It is a well-known fact that as a society we are living much longer thanks to improved living conditions and health care. While being able to reach old age is something to be thankful for, in many ways, there are several challenges facing the elderly, which we all need to pay more attention to. Often it is not until we start to age ourselves or we see a loved one struggling that we sit up and take notice, but as a society, we can do more to make life easier for our aging population. This article outlines the biggest challenges that our Elderly Kupunas face today and how we can support them and enable them to age with dignity.

One of the negative impacts on aging is the lost of the “Sense of Purpose”

There’s a lot of stereotyping going on about our elderly kupunas here in Hawaii due perhaps to the multi-ethnic makeup of its people, which can lead our them to social isolation and marginalization in the community.  In order to address this issue and help get them involve and engage with the community, we as concern stakeholders must implement programs derived from community feedbacks to promote socialization and community events for our kupunas.  By coming up with innovative ways to involve our kupuna in the community through social events and stimulating activities, we can not only help them to maintain their sense of identity and self-esteem but also tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience they have, which is so vital for the development of society especially here in our island paradise.


Financial Insecurity

Financial insecurity is a challenge that a growing number of our kupunas faced. Many are experiencing or are at risk of financial insecurity due primarily to the fact that most are living on fixed income exacerbated by the rising cost of living, couple this with our reliant on imported goods to sustain our livelihood which can be cost prohibitive at best. Another factor that affects finances is the fact we are living a lot longer and the fear that our finances may be exhausted long before we pass on. As a result, more people are opting to work past their retirement age, but unfortunately the opportunities that are available are very limited. In addition to all these, just managing the day-to-day finances and planning for your later life can be challenging for older folks as a lot of the financial activities is now done mostly online or remotely. The downside to this though is that they can leave themselves vulnerable to financial exploitations from fraud and scams.

Challenges with Daily Tasks and Mobility

As we age, our mobility and dexterity will naturally decline which makes it quite challenging to perform everyday tasks and activities. This can gradually cause people to perform self-care that essentially prevents them from interacting socially or pursuing interests and participating in activities that they enjoy.  Fostering collaboration and support is needed to enable our kupunas not only to live independently through the implementations of activities and programs that focus on safety, balance, fitness and mobility, but also to ensure that they can continue to thrive as an individual and to age in place within the safety and comfort of their community.


Access to Healthcare Services

Still a good number of our kupunas are unaware of the various social and healthcare services that are available to them.  Most kupunas feel that the process to access is too complicated and disjointed, especially to those who are struggling with long term chronic conditions who require lots of treatments from different medical professionals and from different clinics just to coordinate the delivery of medications and other types of care and treatments.


Preparing for the Inevitable – “End of Life” 

Death is an unavoidable part of the cycle of life, yet many of us do everything we can to avoid accepting our mortality.  One thing is for sure. We are all going to die someday. We are not immortal beings so we must accept our mortality.  We all need to prepare for the inevitable, but death is often a difficult topic for people to discuss or make plans for. Elderly individuals and their families need support when considering the end-of-life options available, financial implications, and how to ensure that the individual’s wishes are respected. Consult a legal professional to assist you with your legal needs in advance so as to ensure they are properly filed before you pass on.  This avoids a lot of legal matters such as probates and a lot of headaches and heart aches associated in the absence of the proper documents after the death of a loved one.

Finding the Right Care Provision for your Loved One is Crucial

When the time arises where a loved one’s independence is no longer practical, this is when you are face with a critical decision of seeking for external care assistance.  Sometimes this is done by a family member, but this can take a lot of strain on the family caregiver especially in terms of balancing this type of tasks and work as well as with other family responsibilities. This type of involvement requires the family caregiver to get some training, to access helpful resources and emotional support which are necessary to help them to deliver the best care possible for their loved ones and to themselves.

Another option is to seek the services of a professional home care agency such as MetroCare Hawaii – PLUS to help alleviate some of the stresses associated with being the family caregiver.  We call this type of service “Respite Care” where we send our most capable Aide to relief you of your daily caregiving tasks so that you can take your much deserving break to do some of the activities you enjoy and to rejuvenate.  You can only do your best when you are at your best physically and emotionally.


What we can do to help our Kupuna navigate through this tumultuous time in their lives.

We must promote the “Culture of Inclusion” amongst our people young and old to achieve intergenerational connections and social interactions so that both our kupunas and our Keikis may realize enhanced health, and social wellbeing, moving us toward becoming a more age-empowered, interdependent members of our community.

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