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Chris Fleck

A Day To Inform And Celebrate Kupuna

Sen. Brickwood Galuteria’s experience with his own mother led him to enlist the aid of two musical seniors to create Saturday’s Kupuna Day

Respect, consultation and homage for our kupuna are not demanded, but are traits that should be naturally upheld, passed to generations ahead, always having a place regardless of societal or cultural change.

Becoming kupuna is a life process that is earned through exactly that: living. Significant decisions in Hawaii, as well as many other cultural histories, were not made until honored elders were consulted. It is a respect for life and the experiences that shape wisdom and dexterity. In our modern era, that respect begins with information and education about resources that help strengthen our seniors’ continued living experience, which should be accessible, easily available and powerful.

This Saturday (April 21) from 9 to 11 a.m. Kupuna Power – a free empowerment session held at the State Capitol Rotunda organized and hosted by state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, his colleagues and friends – strives to engage our kupuna in a morning of education, entertainment, exercise and awareness.

“Knowledge and experience come from pride in being who you are. Teaching the kupuna that, ‘Hey, I may be 85, but still have something that is revered,’” says entertainer Jimmy Borges, himself a young 76-year-old.

Kupuna Power was initiated after a conversation longtime entertainer and now lawmaker Galuteria had with his 82-year-old mother about preparing for the future, and trying to understand what health and lifestyle resources are available to elders and those approaching senior status.

“The conversation with my mother made us realize how little we knew about what is out there in terms of needs for our kupuna,” says Galuteria.

Working with state, city and private senior advocates, Galuteria has assembled a top-notch and enthusiastic team to get the first Kupuna Power day off the ground. This list of advocates includes Waikiki Health Center director Aunty Francine Dutoit-Tagupa, who was able to coordinate participation with nearly 25 senior-focused vendors. Hawaii’s own legendary singer and dynamite kupuna Marlene Sai has been tapped as the poster child for Kupuna Power.

“I never thought the day would come when I would be called kupuna, but I’ll tell you the first time I got that discount at the movies I was so excited,” Sai says with a laugh. “I’ve learned a lot since Brick asked me to get involved. I embrace it. I went to find out more about being kupuna and can’t wait to share that knowledge. Everyone has been so excited and accommodating,” adds Sai, who not only introduced Galuteria to the world of show business when he was just 18, but also works in the senator’s office as a legislative assistant.

Kupuna Power will start in a traditional manner with a morning pule, or prayer, followed by a march by McKinley High School Color Guard. Borges will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and venerated respect will be summoned by Sai’s Hawaii Pono’i. A mixed bag of information and entertainment will weave the session together with presentations by representatives from the city’s Elderly Affairs Division on topics such as Medicaid, Medicare and long-term insurance options. To get everyone’s heart rate going a bit, there will be stretching led by the adult fitness program Silver Sneakers, as well as an introduction to Zumba Gold taught by certified instructor and state Sen. Pohai Ryan. Former radio host Lanai Tabura also will share tips on identity theft protection.

Of course, with three of Hawaii’s finest singers organizing Kupuna Power, they are bound to share a few songs with the crowd, so expect to hear the melodies of Sai, Borges and Galuteria coming together throughout the session, as well as a surprise comedic guest, who will spend time giving the crowd a little comic relief.

With the elderly population – people 60-plus years of age – expected to rise from 18 percent of Hawaii’s population in 2004 to more than 25 percent by 2030, it’s essential for our entire community to be involved and engaged with matters of sustaining the life process.

“Marlene and I represent kupuna, but we’re still functional, we’re still out there doing our thing,” says Borges. “Even if you’re in a wheelchair, it is your mind that is still working, and you can always do something, always be a positive role model.”

Kupuna Power invites all kupuna or family and friends of kupuna, and those who are simply interested in checking out what may be available as they get older.

Each stage of life should be eventful, enriching and taken advantage of, and Kupuna Power is a two-hour session of exactly that.

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