More than 460 kupuna, government officials, vendors that support seniors and Maui Economic Opportunity staff attended the 51st Kupuna Aloha Luncheon at the Grand Wailea on Saturday, July 29.
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, state Senator Gil Keith-Agaran, state Representatives Troy Hashimoto, Kyle Yamashita and Terez Amato and County Council Members Yuki Lei Sugimura and Tom Cook joined the festivities, a highlight of the year for many kupuna clubs and members.
The keynote speaker was Wes Lo, CEO of Hale Makua Health Services, which provides long-term nursing, home health and rehabilitation care.
“Maui’s population is growing and aging faster than the rest of the United States,” he said, adding that “a new paradigm” for kupuna health, independence and care is needed.
“Our kupuna health needs to be a community endeavor,” he said. “We need to create foundations for kupuna for basic health, safe housing, food, health care, social services, physical safety.
“We need a healthy ecosystem, building community cohesion so the community has the capacity to support its kupuna.”
Tasha Kama, Edwina Wilson-Snyder named Kupuna Advocates of the Year
Maui County Council Member Tasha Kama and Edwina Wilson-Snyder, former Maui educator and president of the umbrella council for kupuna clubs countywide, were honored as Kupuna Advocates of the Year at the event.
Kama worked in the neighborhoods of Maui as a pastor and community advocate to improve the lives of struggling families and individuals, including kupuna, long before she took her seat on the Maui County Council.
“She has championed the causes of the disenfranchised with empathy and her faith,” MEO CEO Debbie Cabebe said in Kama’s introduction.
Kama has fought for Native Hawaiian homelands beneficiaries, persons with disabilities, and the removal of health disparities in indigenous and minority populations.
Wilson-Snyder is a retired teacher, principal and Maui District deputy superintendent. In recent years, she has brought her attention and skills to kupuna causes and currently serves as president of the Maui Planning & Coordinating Council, an organization shepherded by MEO that includes officers of more than 50 Maui County senior clubs.
Kupuna from as far as East and West Maui were transported to the Luncheon, the second live event since the pandemic. The event was mostly funded by the kupuna clubs with MEO organizing the event.
“As kupuna, all of you have helped to care for our families, our communities, so this is very fitting that this is an aloha luncheon where we celebrate you,” said Bissen.