The Tsunami of Aging
While America is aging, most of us may not be aware that the speed of aging in Hawaii is much faster than the national average. Hawaii’s older adults (60+) are representing an ever increasing proportion of the total population. Older adults have grown from representing 12% of the population in 1980 to 18% in 2004 and are expected to exceed 25% by 2030. This change will affect businesses, education, health care, government services and recreation services. By way of comparison, Hawaii’s 60+ population grew twice as fast as the national average over the past decade. Only 3 or 4 states have elderly growth rates that exceed Hawaii’s. By 2011, Hawaii’s post-war Baby Boomer population will begin retiring in droves. Are we prepared for the demands on services, for more workers and more training? At the same time, the aging revolution also suggests opportunities to tap what has been called “America’s fastest growing natural resource”. In what ways can community colleges be an effective player in an aging society?
The Role of a Community College in an Aging Society
To that end, the mission of KCC's Kupuna Education Center will be:
To promote eldercare in Hawaii by promoting its workforce needs by
What is the Meaning of "Kupuna"?
Throughout Hawai‘i, this Hawaiian word is widely understood to mean elder, grandparent or an older person. What is less recognized is the fact that the word has at least three distinct but related meanings. First, a kupuna is an honored elder who has acquired enough life experience to become a family and community leader. The term has been stated to be the embodiment of natural respect… a practitioner of aloha (love), pono (righteousness), malama (caring), and spirituality.1 In ancient times, they were teachers and caretakers of grandchildren and that bond was especially strong. Even today, the kupuna is expected to speak out and help make decisions on important issues for both the family and the community.
Kupuna also means ancestor and includes the many generations before us who by their spiritual wisdom and presence guide us through personal, familial or community difficulties. We look to our kupuna to help us find and fulfill our pathways through life. Included among our kupuna are the family guardian spirits or ‘aumakua who take physical shape, in the form of a honu (turtle) or a pueo (owl) and come to visit, warn and communicate with us.
Finally, kupuna means the source, the starting point or the process of growth. This meaning is related to the notion that that our direct forebearers and those of the distant past remain living treasures who continue to help us grow in numerous ways. They are a source of experience, knowledge, guidance, strength and inspiration to the next generations.
These various meanings of kupuna show how rich a resource they are and why they should be tapped to contribute to the betterment of Hawai‘i, for they truly represent one of Hawai‘i’s fastest growing natural resources.2
1 Ed Lindsey
2 Marc Freedman, Primetime: How the Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. Public Affairs (1999:16-17)
Kupuna Connections TV Series