My passion for kupuna has grown tremendously over the past months since I first enrolled in ‘Iolani School’s “One Mile Project” class. This semester elective course is a new offering in the state-of-the-art Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. The course was geared toward giving students a greater appreciation for older adults in our community (within a one-mile radius of our Moili‘ili/Kapahulu campus).

Generations Magazine - One-Mile Project; One Planet Community - Image 01

‘Iolani students, Lindsay Teruya (lt.) and Taylor Hamai (rt.) with a senior participant, George Miyamoto.

Although I would love to say that I have always been this excited to help older adults, my feelings weren’t always this strong. During our first One Mile gathering, we were given an exercise to express our thoughts on kupuna. There were many negative words thrown out such as “old, slow and grumpy.” These downbeat impressions, however, slowly changed to thoughtful and respectful ideas as my class worked with nearby organizations, such as the University of Hawai‘i Center on Aging, Moili‘ili Community Center, Palolo Chinese Home, Nu‘uanu Hale, AARP and the Project Dana. With these partners, we completed walkability audits, proposed solutions to the problems in our streets, conducted interviews, learned vocabulary terms, took excursions to a Good Life Expo and nursing homes, interviewed a caretaker, conducted an empathy challenge, and reached out to a hospice patient. Thanks to these activities, we gained a better understanding of the elderly and made connections to our own lives. With a newfound love of older adults, my class has spent the past couple months putting together a project proposal that we recently presented to 60 school and community leaders in a special January 10 event.

Our proposed “One Mile, One Planet Community Center” hopes to:

  • provide services to the elderly & our community
  • educate for the future
  • provide a new experience for all generations

As our vision statement reads, “This Center will bring independent older adults and ‘Iolani students together through intergenerational programs that promote active aging, sharing of knowledge and service to the community.”

We hope to improve the daily life and satisfaction of the elderly in our community. We want to work together as a school to create a thriving, age-friendly city. As thousands of Baby Boomers approach retirement each day, we hope to instill the importance of caring for our kupuna. We want to stress healthy living, so that future elderly generations may live independently and freely. It is our mission to reach out and better prepare our parents and grandparents for the upcoming stages of their lives while offering students the unique opportunity to learn from, work with, and serve our kupuna.

Although the One Mile, One Planet Community Center is hypothetical at this point, we are confident that our project proposal can serve as a starting point for ‘Iolani and its students to be a part of helping older adults maintain active, independent, healthy lives.

Generations Magazine - One-Mile Project; One Planet Community - Image 02

The Sullivan Center for Innovation and
Leadership at ‘Iolani School.
David Franzen, photographer for Iolani. Courtesy of WSP.