COVID-19 has affected all of our lives, but perhaps none more than older adults (kūpuna) whose health and well-being have been severely impacted by the pandemic including carrying the highest risk of severe illness due to the virus, threats of social isolation, disruptions in caregiving, and limitations in access to food/meals, vaccines, and medical care. The current pandemic has revealed and exacerbated many gaps in the health and social systems that serve kūpuna, further emphasizing both the unique needs of this population as well as the resilience and leadership of kūpuna, demonstrated through their perseverance through the uncertainties of this pandemic and their contributions to COVID-19 response.
When the COVID-19 vaccine first became available in Hawaiʻi, kūpuna aged 75 and older were one of the first groups eligible for vaccination as part of the state’s plan to minimize risk of severe COVID-19 infection and save as many lives as possible. Today, kūpuna take the lead in vaccination rates in every county across the state. This is a testament to the unwavering commitment of Hawaii’s vaccine providers and community partners who worked tirelessly over the last several months to empower kūpuna with the support and resources needed to access the COVID-19 vaccine. The Kūpuna Vaccination Outreach Group, a collective of over 60 community-based stakeholders, came together under the leadership of the City & County of Honolulu Elderly Affairs Division, Executive Office on Aging, and AARP Hawaiʻi (and the facilitation of Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute) to ensure equitable access to vaccination for all kūpuna regardless of geographic location, language proficiency, ethnic background, physical or cognitive abilities, and economic status.
Kūpuna Food Access
Food insecurity has negative impacts on health across the lifespan, but particularly for kūpuna, who are more likely to have underlying health conditions affected by limited or uncertain access to healthy food. When public spaces became unsafe and stay-at-home orders were implemented, grocery store shelves were cleared out, and congregate dining services ceased, many kūpuna were left without reliable access to food and meals, particularly for those who were experiencing the compounding effects of having a fixed income, competing financial priorities, limited mobility or transportation, or requiring medically tailored meals. Originally formed as a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic, community partners mobilied quickly and strategically to distribute over 1.2 million meals to kūpuna as part of the Kūpuna Food Security Coalition (“KFSC”). The KFSC continues to leverage partnerships and collective resources to work toward long-term, sustainable solutions for kūpuna food insecurity and to build stronger communities that best serve our kūpuna and prevent hunger in the first place. Click here to learn more about the KFSC and available support services, or call 2-1-1.
Kupuna Fact Sheet (translations available here)