comscore Column: Hawaii’s kupuna share their expertise | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Island Voices

Column: Hawaii’s kupuna share their expertise

  • Suzanne Chun Oakland

    Suzanne Chun Oakland

  • Cullen Hayashida

    Cullen Hayashida

Even in the wake of COVID-19 and the gloomy news coverage of this pandemic, there are so many rays of sunshine in our community. We loved the article about seniors in high schools and how they are responsible and attentive to learn virtually with the guidance of our educators, parents and other community partners. We wanted to share all the hopeful and inspiring things that other “seniors” — our elders — are doing as well.

The kupuna are seasoned and valuable community resources, with a broad array of knowledge, life experience and expertise, and they are contributing their time, talent and know-how to address this global challenge. They are staying at home or working in safe environments providing a variety of services for others. They are our retired educators, helping through FaceTime, Skype and other social media, teaching our children how to read and write while out of school to supplement their virtual learning environment.

Others are making and donating face masks and other personal protective equipment for those who interface with the public daily. Even in this time to “shelter in place,” our retired elders are offering virtual workshops, serving as volunteer mediators, and delivering meals.

Our kupuna are retired doctors, carpenters, nurses, scientists, paramedics, respiratory therapists, unemployment specialists, housing employees, teachers, and many others who are coming forward. They are guiding government, institutions of higher education and businesses with their helping hands.

It is not surprising then that we have depended on 79-year-old elder, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, to provide us with honest, evidence-based advice and guidance for our nation. Locally, the retiring CEO of Hawaiian Electric Alan Oshima has been recruited to help right our economic ship through these turbulent times.

Are we merely to “shelter in place” and step aside? Absolutely not! Although old age may eventually involve frailty, chronic illness and weakened immunity requiring assistance, there are so many of us who are productive. We are experienced, talented, skilled, well-connected and with time on our hands. We are Hawaii’s fastest-growing natural resource. To discount our ability to contribute would be an enormous waste of human resources that Hawaii cannot afford. Our kupuna wish to be useful, to matter and to leave a positive legacy.

Can we do more? We certainly can. There is much work that can be done to strengthen Hawaii’s social infrastructure to better marshal this human resource — our elders.

It is why a new group called Change AGEnts Hawaii is emerging. We are active older adults committed to create and strengthen the support network to challenge and unleash the power and potential of the Boomer generation as agents for positive social change in Hawaii. We believe that by contributing, by serving, and by finding purpose beyond ourselves.

Boomers can remain well, do good for their communities, and for generations to come. Contact us at to learn more.

Suzanne Chun Oakland and Cullen T. Hayashida are on the core leadership team of Change AGEnts Hawaii.

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