Kupuna Falling Through the Cracks
Opinion by Ketty Mobed
Do you know elderly people, retired family members, aunties and uncles on Molokai who have been living on a fixed income? Until recently they’ve mostly made things work out on their small pension, but now many feel so overwhelmed and are in despair. Over the last couple of years, the financial burden and life for this cohort of people has gotten especially hard.
The other day I ran into Aunty P. We both had a little time, so we sat down under a monkey pod tree and talked story. The last six months have gotten really hard for her. She lives on a fixed income (about $1300). Her husband has a heart condition and can’t do much. Her utility and food bills have doubled and she has fallen behind in payments. They live in the house where she was born, and it needs a lot of fixing up. The house has stayed in the family, but she isn’t the owner. Recently she became aware that there was a water leak below ground from one of the old pipes, running up the water bill. This is an all-too-common story.
Another common story is like Aunty M’s. During the last year, she had to take care of one of her sick adult children and has maxed out on her credit cards. Now she is paying the monthly minimum payments at close to 20 percent interest. Her debt is not going down, it is going up. On top of it, her car needs major repair and she doesn’t have the additional needed resources to pay for the repairs. She’s literally stuck!
Uncle K needs to drive his truck to the different work sites to bring in a little more extra cash. But now with gas prices having skyrocketed, the little bit of extra he makes is spent on gas again. He also has to fly to Oahu for necessary medical appointments. But with double the airfare, he is delaying important medical care, decreasing his quality of life.
What will it take to lift our kupuna out of these situations? Increased and improved community resource allocation. Subsidized utility services (no red tape). Debt forgiveness! A centralized location where kupuna can go to and get all kinds of important information and help (i.e. senior center, which we don’t have). I’m reaching out to our community on what we can and should do together to improve each other’s lives. Please don’t endure on your own quietly. You have to come forward and share your stories and ideas, and encourage those who have and can, to share lifesaving resources. We need more community input on all levels!