June 1, 2023

Kupuna Program, a lifeline for Moloka‘i’s beloved seniors

The Moloka‘i Rural Health Community Association's Kupuna Program has become a lifeline for the physical, mental and social well-being of Moloka‘i’s beloved seniors.

“It is our hope that the programs and services provided will improve the overall health status of our kupuna,” said Kupuna Program Director Kuulei Arce.

Recently, the program has launched an initiative to teach kupuna how to use technology and keep them informed about upcoming and continuing events in a newsletter.

“When we first started, we were sending out more paper newsletters than emails,” Arce said. “We started computer classes to get our kupuna an email and Zoom account, and to teach them the basics of the computer. At one point, we were sending out newsletters (via email) to 20 percent of our kupuna. As of today, emails sent are 63 percent. We have many Zoom classes like stretches, painting and other educational classes. More kupuna are joining us and know how to operate their Zoom account once we get them set up.”

The Kupuna Program began with a Maui County Office of Economic Development grant in July 2021. The program with a dedicated staff of three aims to address the unique challenges faced by the elderly, 65 years and older, in Moloka‘i’s tight-knit community. The program offers a range of services designed to enhance the quality of life for Moloka‘i's kupuna.
Additionally, the Kupuna Program places a strong emphasis on preventative care. Through educational initiatives and health promotion campaigns, the program encourages healthy living practices among the elderly population. Recommending regular wellness check-ups, nutrition counseling and exercise programs are just some of the resources offered to help kupuna maintain their health and independence.

A recent addition has been Tai Chi classes for kupuna. These are offered two days a week on the lawn of Hale Mahaolu.

The first Tai Chi class had 24 kupuna participants, and more are joining classes at word spreads.

To reduce social isolation, the program organizes various community activities and events. These include cultural gatherings, recreational outings and educational workshops tailored to the interests and needs of the elderly. By fostering social connections and providing opportunities for engagement, the Kupuna Program helps combat loneliness and ensures that the elderly remain active participants in the community.

The Moloka‘i Rural Health Community Association's Kupuna Program actively involves community members, local organizations and volunteers. Their malama of their community fosters a sense of collective responsibility towards the welfare of the kupuna. This community-driven approach has resulted in a strong support network for the elderly, ensuring that they receive the care and attention they deserve.

Since its inception, the Kupuna Program has witnessed significant success in improving the overall well-being of the elderly population on Moloka‘i.

More than 700 kupuna are registered in the program: 66 percent are women, and 34 percent men. Most are retired, although 13 percent are still employed, 5 percent work full-time. Most of them are challenged by health conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol and diabetes. Finances and Moloka‘i’s high cost of living while being on a fixed income are among their primary concerns, followed by worries about their health, medication and medical supplies. Off-island travel for medical visits is a challenge, especially with only one airline to serve residents. Moloka‘i also struggles with a limited number of available physicians.
The program reports more than 8,000 services provided to kupuna. Massage is the most requested service, followed by haircuts.

Hands-on workshops are also popular, including computer classes, painting, hula, ceramics and sewing. The program helps with chores in more than 1,700 cases, with 80 percent yard cleaning and 20 percent house cleaning.

With its holistic approach and unwavering dedication, the Kupuna Program has become a beacon of hope for other rural communities facing similar challenges.

For more information about the Moloka‘i Rural Health Community Association's Kupuna Program, visit their website. (link to: https://kupunaprogram.wixsite.com/molokai-rural-health) Or call, (808) 553-9094. Donations are gratefully accepted.

Photo credit: Moloka‘i Rural Health Community Association