In 1992, when Hurricane Iniki hit the islands, my mother-in-law refused to leave the house. Both Linda and I were working and we called her over and over, trying to get her to go to a shelter. She wouldn’t leave her beloved dog behind and at that time, not many shelters accepted pets. Fortunately, she rode out the storm, in the dark, hugging the pup.
This brings us to Puna on the Big Island. Neighborhoods there took a serious hit from tropical storm Iselle. I know this much about Puna side of Hawai‘i Island: there are families kupuna who have lived there for years and would react just like my mother-in-law. They would NOT leave their homes. It’s not just a house — it’s a HOME. It may be because of a pet. It may be because of a koa rocker in the living room. It may be because of photo albums that keep their memories alive.
Experts tell us that aging in place — even during a storm — is a vital concept when it comes to our seniors. The longer they can stay in comfortable familiar surroundings, HOME, the better off they will be — physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially.
It is important to remember, we need to think about the needs of our seniors, not just on a day to day basis, but especially during times of emergency. They may experience confusion, stress — but if that senior relative or neighbor has your arm to lean on, you can make all the difference in the world. And if they have a pet, scoop that baby up and take it with you.
The Elderhood Project airs on KHON2 News Friday mornings at 5:45 a.m. And Thursday afternoons at 5 p.m.