The original article can be found on Civil Beat here.
Allow me to dream big for a moment, for it’s often through dreams and accidents that we become the beneficiaries of great and wondrous things.
In this dream, the State of Hawaii provides basic income for kupuna (elders) in addition to streamlining, expanding, and increasing funding – direct funding – for kupuna-directed services. And while I’m dreaming, the State also provides basic income for other vulnerable members of society, including federal workers, specifically in the trades, where government shutdowns severely impact our working families’ capacities to sustain themselves. But, we’ll save that for another time. Hey, some people dream of flying, so this dream of mine is at least a bit closer to the ground. So, let’s get back to the original dream.
It’s morning. A fleet of custom painted Tesla Model 3s roll out of a central Oahu district center, cradled beneath red flowering canopies of ohia lehua trees strung like a lei around the newly established tech hub. The all-glass facade of buildings of varying heights, topped with photovoltaic panels and micro-wind turbines gleam like a cluster of jewels. The brilliant gold mid-morning sun peaks over the billowy puff-clouds gathered above the Koolau mountain range in the East, as the fleet of electric vehicles make way to their scheduled destinations.
The fleet disperses at Kamehameha Highway, two cars turn north, while a single car ventures south, it’s suited driver – dressed like a James Bond-esque secret agent – glances at his plotted route on the large central touchscreen of his vehicle. His destination is Lamaku, a sprawling verdant community dotted with luxurious cottages that encircle a world-renown private 18-hole golf course and country club.
News media has continuously raved about Lamaku, its seeming exclusivity, its own world-class hospital, and the wealth of its amenities from Michelin Star dining to game fishing in an upland lake. Many have speculated at the price of membership to such an esteemed community. Residents of Hawaii know all too well that the only cost of association is time, because Lamaku is a community designed specifically for kupuna.
The driver makes his way past a golf cart as it speeds along to the nearest par 4. He turns onto the lake-view road and makes his ascent east, with ever-increasing picturesque views of the central Oahu plains around him. He approaches two magnificent structures that could pass as wings of a luxury resort and he briefly imagines what the view of the lake on the opposite side of these apartment complexes might look like. The driver loops into the porte-cochere, where his all-too-familiar clients are already waiting.
They are an incredibly cute couple. Gleeful and giddy like newlyweds, but time itself knows the story of their long and happy marriage. They hop into the back of the Tesla and the driver updates his destination. He turns to the couple in the backseat, who with hands held together, nod in unison, confirming their destination. They have their first grandchild on the way and because of their personal driver, they’ll be at Kapiolani Hospital just in time to welcome her into the world. And our driver will be with them, for as long as they need him. Time to wake up.
I’ll definitely admit, it’s a pretty ambitious dream, but it shouldn’t be one that has crossed the threshold into the realm of fantasy. Hawaii isn’t a stranger to the kind of aggressive expansion needed in order to establish internationally innovative public-benefiting iconicism – we’re a world class tourist destination! So, why not further develop our innovativeness, expand on our uniqueness, and double-down on our iconicism by going big; like with elder care?
In Hawaii, there’s a wise saying: I pa‘a i kona kupuna ‘a‘ole kakou e puka (had it not been for our elders we would not be here). Beyond a mere statement of the obvious, it’s a value that has – for ages – impressed upon the people of Hawaii, the responsibility of caring for our elders. It’s not enshrined solely within Hawaiian culture, but in every culture represented in Hawaii.
Our kupuna shouldn’t have to worry about things like aging in place, accessibility to adequate healthcare, access to recreational activities, legal aid, the convenience of a concierge and a Bond-esque driver, long wait lists or lines, and money. Our kupuna should never have to weigh their desire to remain home in these islands against the affordability of a retirement community elsewhere. Grandma and grandpa can be with their family without ever being fearful that their children or grandchildren will ever be burdened. That’s what the State can do for our families.
The State’s Executive Office on Aging, its county divisions, and private sector partners do great things for our kupuna, but prioritizing increased funding to these agencies – combined with some very ambitious dreaming – could raise our level of care for the wisest members of our society to such great heights. So, let’s dream together and find ways to make even the most awesomely ambitious of them a reality. I strongly believe we can do this through public-private partnerships, efficient and effective governance, and the establishment of new economic sectors that Hawaii has long-been primed to capitalize upon (like the tech sector).