It is no secret that the number of individuals over the age of 60 is increasing exponentially. Without massive changes to operations, there will be no way to effectively meet the needs of seniors in the future. This we know. What may not be so evident are the strides forward that the Hawai‘i State Executive Office on Aging and the Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Hawai‘i are making in “getting ahead” of the population boom.

About 18 months ago, the Maui County Office on Aging (MCOA) implemented a new assessment protocol that each AAA in Hawai‘i will eventually use. (Kaua‘i began the use of the new tool a year ago). And let me warn you, it is a long assessment. So, why implement an assessment that could be construed as cumbersome and downright bothersome for frail seniors?

The answer lies in what seniors and family caregivers end up receiving from the assessment. Imagine a senior who needs assistance in order to remain safely at home. Maybe the senior and family identify a few services that would allow him/her continued independence. Rather than having to call numerous agencies and participate in separate assessments, the AAA can conduct one assessment that provides a comprehensive view of how to help keep that senior at home.

I like to think of the assessment as a traffic light. MCOA used to only determine the red and the green lights. We could easily identify when seniors were in the “red” and required immediate in-home assistance. We could also determine functions for which the senior required no assistance — the “green” areas. The new assessment process allows us now to identify the “yellow” at-risk areas as well. These are the areas that do not yet require intervention but that could eventually undermine the senior’s desire to remain independent at home.

By identifying the at-risk areas, MCOA can assist families in taking a proactive approach. We no longer simply authorize necessary services, but we help the individual and family plan to avert the need for services in the future.

So, yes, we spend a few hours getting to know the senior and family caregiver. But the time is well spent. We identify not only needs, but also areas of strength and potential areas of risk. Seniors receive a comprehensive support plan designed to meet current needs, improve function when possible, and prevent further decline.

This proactive approach, combined with evidence-based health promotion activities, is critical to the future success of the aging network. We know the amount of funding we receive will not keep pace with the aging population. Therefore, we must engage in coordinated planning efforts that maximize health and independence in a preemptive manner and be able to meet the needs of at-risk seniors for years to come.

Maui County Office On Aging
J. Walter Cameron Center
95 Mahalani Street, Rm. 20, Wailuku
808-270-7774 | F: 808-270-7935
Toll Free in Hawai‘i 808-643-2372 |