Assisting Kauai’s Elderly

The Agency on Elderly Affairs is at your service, whether it’s helping to find a place to live, senior transportation, the Friendly Visiting Program, adult day care or homemaker services. It can even provide lunches to eligible seniors.

“If you are an older adult, person with a disability, a caregiver, or planning for your long-term care needs, we are here to serve you,” says Ludvina “Kealoha” Takahashi, the program’s administrative officer for the county executive office on aging.

The agency was founded in the 1960s after the Older Americans Act that specifically established assistance for the elderly was signed into law. The state’s Aging and Disability Resource Center helps support kupuna, people with disabilities, and caregivers, and has service areas on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii island and the Agency on Elderly Affairs on Kauai. The main task for the county office’s employees is to help community members age 60 and above.

Honorees and dignitaries pose for a photo following last week's awards ceremony for Kauai's Outstanding Older Americans. (Bottom row, from left) Guy Ambrose, Ralph Leaman, Barbara Leaman, Roger Caires, Pat Simpson, Charles Rebb, Carolina Santos and Kamai Napaa. (Top row, from left) Kealoha Takahashi, Agency on Elderly Affairs executive; Rep. Derek Kawakami, emcee Julie Souza, Rep. James Tokioka, Sen. Ronald Kouchi, Rep. Dee Morikawa, Terri Byers, state executive on aging, and Loren Johnson Sr. and Marilyn Matsumoto, 2014 Outstanding Older Americans

Honorees and dignitaries pose for a photo following last week’s awards ceremony for Kauai’s Outstanding Older Americans. (Bottom row, from left) Guy Ambrose, Ralph Leaman, Barbara Leaman, Roger Caires, Pat Simpson, Charles Rebb, Carolina Santos and Kamai Napaa. (Top row, from left) Kealoha Takahashi, Agency on Elderly Affairs executive; Rep. Derek Kawakami, emcee Julie Souza, Rep. James Tokioka, Sen. Ronald Kouchi, Rep. Dee Morikawa, Terri Byers, state executive on aging, and Loren Johnson Sr. and Marilyn Matsumoto, 2014 Outstanding Older Americans

“We help them live a dignified life even after retirement,” says Takahashi.

The team plans, implements, supports and advocates for the well-being of Kauai’s older adults.

“Our vision is to see that all adults live independently as long as they can in their own homes in the community where they have lived for so long with dignity and respect,” she says.

Caregivers of the elderly also are given support they need. The agency steps in by providing help in areas like housework, meal preparation, travel and grocery shopping.

“We assist families as much as possible,” says Takahashi.

The Agency on Elderly Affairs works with other area agencies to provide assistance along with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) that consists of volunteers age 55 and over who lend a helping hand to those in need. Still, with more than 17,000 residents on the island 60 years and older, only some 2,000 take advantage of these services. Takahashi believes it is because so many are afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” she says.

There is nothing wrong with needing aid. Even if the Agency on Elderly Affairs isn’t the right resource, its gracious employees will point people in the proper direction without any judgment. Employees who work there, like Takahashi, have a special place in their hearts for the elderly.

“I value just being able to help them, just to see their smiles and that they’re in a good place,” she says. “Living here on Kauai is rather hard and just to see that they’re vibrant, that they continue to thrive, that’s a joy to me. If we can help in any way, making it possible for them to be in their own home and thrive, then that’s the reward I need: just to see that they’re OK.”

Born and raised in Kekaha, the Waimea High School graduate was always surrounded by older family members.

The employees of Kauai's Agency on Elderly Affairs. (Front row, from left) Editha Abigania, Grace Delos-Reyes, Rosemaria Manago, Emrids Kiamzon, Julie Kajiwara, Rhonda Lizama, Teresa Caires. (Back row, from left) Lito Asuncion, June Renaud, Donna Olivas-Kaohi, Iris Parongao, Terri Byers (director, State Executive Office on Aging), Celia Melchor-Questin, Patricia Gonsalves and Kealoha Takahashi

The employees of Kauai’s Agency on Elderly Affairs. (Front row, from left) Editha Abigania, Grace Delos-Reyes, Rosemaria Manago, Emrids Kiamzon, Julie Kajiwara, Rhonda Lizama, Teresa Caires. (Back row, from left) Lito Asuncion, June Renaud, Donna Olivas-Kaohi, Iris Parongao, Terri Byers (director, State Executive Office on Aging), Celia Melchor-Questin, Patricia Gonsalves and Kealoha Takahashi

“I just had that soft spot for the elderly, and I respect them,” she says.

She also cherishes the ability to honor “Outstanding Older Americans” each year at the recent Older Americans Recognition Ceremony. Eight Kauai kupuna were nominated for awards this year – Barbara Leaman, Kamai Napaa, Guy Ambrose, Carolina Santos, Ralph Leaman, Charles Rebb, Pat Simpson and Roger Caires. These community members received acknowledgement for their impressive voluntary actions after retirement.

“It’s just a nice way of saying thanks for what you’ve done for the community,” says Takahashi.

Simpson and Caires were officially named Kauai’s 2015 Outstanding Older Americans. Simpson was instrumental in implementing Share the Care in Lihue, an organization that extends relief to caregivers of the terminally ill. Caires is an equally ambitious volunteer and participates in groups like the Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission.

Takahashi has been honoring these exceptional citizens annually since she began working for the agency in 1977 (awards have been presented since 1969). She worked her way up the ranks until landing her current position in 2003. She hopes to continue expanding the agency’s services, including providing aid to veterans and those with disabilities and guiding people with their finances earlier in their lives.

“So that when you retire, you’re comfortable,” she says.

Her main prerogative, however, is to make sure that all the elderly get the proper help and care they need.

“Please, if you need any kind of assistance, hopefully we will be able to be there to help,” she says.

Visit kauaiadrc.org for more information.

cocomidweek@gmail.com

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