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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 30, 2002

Lots of room at Lunalilo Home

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

HAWAI'I KAI — The new garden at the Lunalilo Home is sprouting with crownflower and 'ilima, but there aren't many senior citizens there to appreciate them.

A year since the care home for elderly Native Hawaiians reopened following a multimillion-dollar renovation, only 15 people have taken up residence at the grand facility — 64 percent short of capacity.

Before the four-year renovation started, all 42 beds were filled.

But with a rocky economy, the cost of Lunalilo Home — $3,000 per month — and increasing competition, officials have struggled to draw more residents.

"We will get a full house," said Gregg Meyer, Lunalilo Home administrator. "The challenge is to have enough ... financial support from the community to underwrite the cost of care for elderly Hawaiians who don't have enough financial resources. That's it in a nutshell."

The home, which has been operated at its present location for about 75 years by the King William Charles Lunalilo Trust, is constantly looking for new sources of revenue and new ways to partner with the community to tap into volunteerism.

Each year, the home has fund-raisers and accepts donations from the community. The Kaiser High School Interact Club and other volunteer organizations routinely come to pitch in and entertain or engage the seniors. Roy Benham, a Hawai'i Kai resident for 25 years, has taken on organizing volunteers to help with the garden, Meyer said.

"The garden will be our cornerstone activity," Meyer said. "Arts and crafts are great, but it's (just) sitting. The more we can get the residents out, the better for them."

And Hawai'i Meals on Wheels recently hired the home to cook meals that it delivers to shut-in elderly residents in East Honolulu.

To be a resident of the home, seniors cannot rely upon a wheelchair for mobility, or tube feedings. The home can accommodate wheelchairs, but the city determined that its hallways were not wide enough to meet federal wheelchair standards, shrinking the pool of eligible seniors.

The 15 seniors living at the home get to stroll the grounds, sit on the open-air lanai, play games and receive visitors. Sometimes those visitors are from the nearby preschool. Other times it's students or family and friends.

"We'd like to develop more community involvement," said Meyer, who has been at the home for 13 years. "We'd like to reach out to other volunteer groups. We want the volunteers to come here and do meaningful activities with the residents. It doesn't have to be strictly Hawaiian."

This summer the home benefited from a college student who developed the garden and appointed Benham to oversee the volunteers and maintain the garden plot, encouraging nurseries to donate plants and gardening tools.

"It's great for the residents to get out of the house," Meyer said. "It's so peaceful. You'd never know you were just two blocks from the main thoroughfare."