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by Krystal Choate, student writer

Their words were all in the same vein: Everyone needs good health care.

On Feb. 6, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Kapi‘olani Community College, and Hawai‘i Pacific Islands Campus Compact hosted a community forum entitled “Across the Ages, Generations Shaping Hawai‘i.” The forum, the first of what may become a series, allowed for an inter-generational conversation about rising health care costs, livable communities, and financial security.

Held at the Diamond Head Theatre, the forum had two keynote speakers: Lee White, a national representative of AARP, and Ramsay Taum, the special assistant to the dean on Host Culture and Community Affairs at University of Hawai‘i.

“ We’re all aging from the time we enter Earth,” said Taum.

As guests filed into the theater, they were asked to sit in alternating rows of students or nonstudents. As most of the guests took their seats, conversations began among the generations: Where are you from? What school do you attend? What is your major? Instead of students asking questions about the good old days, the adult generations wanted to hear from younger people.

After introductions, the guests shared their beliefs and opinions about health care costs and our communities.

AARP’s objective for the forum was to understand the problems the community and the people who comprise it are facing, White said. From this forum, AARP wants to develop solutions to problems and ask for volunteers in the community to implement them.

Health Care Costs

Overwhelmingly the audience felt that regardless of age these issues affect all of us. The younger generation relies less on health care, but they also understand that is a necessity.

A concern for the younger generation was that employers do not allow employees to work the hours needed for health care coverage.

Christina Marshall, a student at the University of Hawai‘i, said a friend deals with this situation at work. She said it forces the students to buy their own health care which they can’t afford.

People of all ages deal with some type of issue concerning the costs of health care. Brenda Sheinmel of New York, a visitor to Hawai‘i, said that after retiring, her medications cost her $500 to $700 a month.

Livable Communities

Taum spoke about livable communities and how we can keep Hawai‘i different from the other 49 states, today and in the many years to come.

“ We have completed full circle,” said Taum, arguing that the multigeneration home has returned. Past generations would have grandparents, parents, and kids living in one home, and now we are returning to that lifestyle, Taum said.

While many in the audience saw more communication within communities and a stronger relationship between older generations and children, some disagreed with Taum’s vision. One audience member said that today, “multi-generation homes are based on economic failure.” He added that past generations thrived in multigeneration homes, and today they are barely surviving.

Taum acknowledged that the audience member was right, that families today have failed economically. But he added that families could make multi-generation homes a positive lifestyle by building stronger relationships among different generations.

Taum said we must learn from our history. “I ka wa mamua, ka wa mahope,” Taum said, which means “The future is in the past.”

He said children today are not being taught enough life lessons by their parents. Instead they are taught to create their own opinions. Children today need to learn about the past so they can apply it to future situations, Taum said.

Financial Security

White presented four AARP agendas that could make a difference in the lives of its members and many others.

· AARP develops products and services that benefit its members. Whether it be discounts for hotels or grocery stores.

· AARP advocates Social Security and Medicare issues to Congress and state legislatures.

· AARP informs its members and the community through its monthly bulletin and magazine.

· AARP provides community services, such as, driver safety education for people 50 years old or older and holds community forums such as this one.

White referred to the discussion of health care costs, noting that audience members had also pointed out that even with secure health care, certain costs aren’t covered. Stories had been shared of people working hard and paying into their medical insurance programs their whole lives, but when they became sick, their health care plans refused to cover certain expenses, and some families continue to struggle with health costs even after a family member has died. AARP, White explained, offers services such as financial management to help families.

AARP hopes to have more community forums in the future to give people the opportunity to learn about the challenges others face and how they can help. The more people know, the better off everyone will be.

For more information on how to help or participate, call 545-6006 or e-mail oahuaarp@hawaii.rr.com.

 


As part of an information effort called Divided We Fail, AARP and Campus Compact hosted an intergenerational community forum at Kapiolani Community College last month. “AARP wants to get elected officials to focus on health care and financial (in)security,” said Associate State Director Bruce Bottorff. AARP is collecting the personal stories of people in Hawai‘i (including college students) who are concerned about the cost of health care and/or saving for the future. Share your story by calling Bottorff at 545-6006.

Photos courtesy AARP

 

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