The residents of Arcadia — a UCC-related life plan community in Honolulu — take their volunteering seriously. This past spring, for example, they participated in the Punahou Capstone Project with the local Punahou School. Organized by resident Ellen Chapman, the multi-week project helped the high school seniors find connecting threads with the older adults.
The school’s Capstone Projects are community outreach opportunities for the students. The Arcadia Project consisted of a series of conversations between students and older adults. Three Arcadia residents — Marci Taylor-Kaneshige, Peg Foster, and Esther Arinaga — held an average of five 30-minute conversations with the students, either in the Arcadia gardens or via Zoom. Two students were paired with each resident.
The students were surprised to find that amidst differences, they also had experiences that paralleled their older adult partners. Both young and older “seniors” found common ground in each other’s words.
When one student expressed concern over missing so much in-person school due to COVID-19, Foster shared a story of her junior high school years, which were interrupted by World War II. A sixth grader in Hawai’i during the fall of 1941, Foster’s education temporarily stopped when the schools were closed following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. In September 1942, she entered 7th grade on the mainland.
“I wanted to assure the students that missing school all that time did not set me back,” she says. “I was lucky in that my life was impacted by heroic war, not an invisible virus.”
All three Arcadia residents shared stories from their teenage years, and those stories helped the students bridge the age gap between the Arcadia kupuna (or “honored elder/grandparent”) and themselves.
Taylor-Kaneshige told Hazel Hasegawa of The Arcadian — Arcadia’s newsletter — that she “noted wistfully how women today have the anticipation and great opportunity of going to college,” an option that did not exist for her. She helped her discussion partners overcome their initial shyness by pointing out the difference between dancing styles. As she said to Hasegawa, “Today’s social dancing movements are so free, without even a need for a partner!” Taylor-Kaneshige also proudly related that she still can jitterbug, just at half-speed.
As Arinaga’s conversations came to a close, she and her students exchanged warm words of wisdom. In her interview with The Arcadian’s Hasegawa, Arinaga said she spoke to the girls knowing that not all of her Arcadia neighbors have family close by; so she advised the girls, “Keep close to your mother. Family is important.”
Arinaga told The Arcadian reporter that the girls also gave her advice. She repeats the words in a note from one of the students every morning: “Be glad to be alive. Do something meaningful today.”
Special thanks to Arcadia’s Ellen Chapman, Marci Taylor-Kaneshige, Peg Foster, Esther Arinaga, and Everett Young — and to The Arcadian and reporter Hazel Hasegawa — for providing the information for this story.