Taking care of seniors a top priority — governor

Taking care of Hawaii’s aging population will be among Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s top priorities in the legislative session next year, the governor said at the 45th annual Maui County Outstanding Older American Recognition Ceremony hosted at the King Kamehameha Golf Club on Monday.

“The number of folks who will be living longer past 65 years old is growing . . . (and) that has ramifications for us financially, socially, emotionally across the state in the immediate future; not 20 or 30 years from now, I’m talking about right now,” Abercrombie said at the luncheon.

Policy related to assisted living and long-term care are all-encompassing statewide issues that legislators need to address “not just politically but morally” as they contemplate whether programs extend life or merely prolong death, Abercrombie said.

“The factor of aging – and aging in place, not shoved on the side but fully committed and engaged in family and community life – is something I think there is tremendous opportunity for, and that’s why the folks being honored today are role models,” he said.

Whereas awardees in the past had been invited to visit the governor in the Senate Chambers on Oahu, this year the governor made it a point to recognize each of the state’s eight winners – two from each county – on their home island.

The governor had lunch Monday with the Maui winners of this year’s Outstanding Older Americans Awards, Kula resident Diane Logsdon and Lahaina resident Richard Endsley.

Logsdon was nominated for the award for her service as a treasurer, community service chairwoman and president of the AARP Kula Chapter. She has a long history of volunteering with the Kula Hospital Auxiliary and also serves as recording secretary for the Maui Economic Opportunity’s Senior Citizens Planning and Coordinating Council and the Puunene branch of the Maui Friends of the Library.

Endsley volunteers for a number of West Maui community associations, including the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, the Lahaina Honolua Senior Citizens Club, the LahainaTown Action Committee and the Lahaina Hongwanji temple. He has served as president of Lahaina Intermediate School’s Education Foundation and co-founded the After-School Enrichment Tutoring Project.

There are about 32,000 older Americans, those over the age of 60, living in Maui County, officials said. By 2020, that number is expected to grow to an estimated 54,000, not counting seniors who move to the county from elsewhere.

“People talk about the silver tsunami coming, and when we think about ‘tsunami’ we usually think dread,” Deborah Arendale, Maui County Executive on Aging, said in an interview after the luncheon Monday. “But just like how when a tsunami is coming, there’s those crazy folks who go out there and ride the waves. Well, we have a whole group of seniors that for years have been riding the waves . . . helping us get ready for that future, cruise it in and bring help.”

In Maui County, there are nearly 60 groups for seniors and older Americans that meet regularly, according to Adele Rugg, a Recognition and Awards Committee member and 2011 recipient of the award.

“The senior wave that’s coming could be devastating without the group of seniors we have that volunteer every day and every year,” Arendale said. “In Maui, we have a very strong history of ongoing engagement where seniors really are focused on giving back, and that’s a message we want folks to see.”

* Eileen Chao can be reached at