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Sen. Hirono with roundtable participants from the Kūpuna Collective.

Sen. Mazie Hirono met with members of the Kūpuna Collective, a network of support organizations that focus on maximizing the health, independence and engagement of Hawaiʻi’s older adults, for a roundtable conversation in October. The joint initiative between the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Center on Aging and the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute was formed at the start of the pandemic and includes more than 150 partner organizations throughout the state.

Related: Kūpuna Collective fosters collaboration, innovation for aging impact, April 2022

Hirono’s discussion focused on support issues for Hawaiʻi’s kūpuna, including food security, senior care workforce shortages, and the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower health care costs for the nearly 280,000 Hawaiʻi seniors who get their health care through Medicare. She also praised the Kūpuna Collective on behalf of the community for their combined efforts.

“The Kūpuna Collective came together at the start of the pandemic to meet the needs of kūpuna who weren’t able to take advantage of mass food distributions and vaccine initiatives,” she said. “The Collective was able to identify gaps in services and respond quickly by leveraging resources and justifying their needs to donors through careful data collection and analysis. When seniors across our state were struggling to afford food, this group came together to help make sure they had enough to eat, and it has continued working to support our seniors with access to vaccines, daily meals to meet their medical needs, digital resources and more.”

She added, “With the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, we’re also meeting the needs of our seniors by lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and making sure seniors on Medicare can get the vaccines they need free of cost, thanks to a provision I authored.”

UH participants share experiences

Christy Nishita, interim director of the Center on Aging in the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health and a co-convener of the Kūpuna Collective, was motivated by the event.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to meet with the senator, to share how the UH Center on Aging plays a key role in co-convening the Collective, providing critical data and evaluation to support planning, the targeting of resources and assessing collective impact,” Nishita said. “Iʻm excited for the opportunity for us to grow our efforts to continue supporting our kūpuna.”

Jenny Lee, a recent graduate of the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, said “I was able to share how beneficial it was to get involved with the Kūpuna Collective as a student, it opened my eyes to how our aging network works and how important it is to coordinate services around the needs of kūpuna.”

Other roundtable participants included Derrick Ariyoshi, county executive for the Elderly Affairs Division with the City and County of Honolulu; Lindsey Ilagan, Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute Kupuna Program Manager and co-convener of the Kūpuna Collective; Michelle Cordero-Lee, Lanakila Pacific Meals on Wheels Program CEO; Kathy Wyatt, Hale Hauoli Adult Day Care Owner and Director; and En Young, executive director of the Pacific Gateway Center.

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