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What bright spots have you found during the pandemic?

Aging Matters

While the pandemic has brought about significant changes and stress to our daily lives, some bright spots have emerged. Some of these include learning new and valuable skills to

stay connected, reconnecting with hobbies and interests and challenging us to think outside the box.

What is a “bright spot” you have experienced during the last 18 months?

One of the bright spots in the University of Hawai’i Manoa Extension Office on Moloka’i has been the ‘Ohana Garden and Grindz project. The project began several years ago with grandparents who were raising their grandchildren on their state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands homestead land. They were looking for ways to engage their 9- to 13-year-old grandchildren in leading their gardening efforts. The project started out with a small group of families who over a period of three weeks worked together to plant, maintain and harvest vegetables and used their produce to prepare healthy and tasty recipes.

In early 2020 we received funds from Maui County’s Office of Economic Development to expand the project’s reach to more of Moloka’i’s multigenerational households. Additional partners joined the effort, including Moloka’i Auto Parts, Barking Deer Farm and Kualapu’u Market. Weeks before the 2020 kickoff, the pandemic shut down all in-person education programs and required a revamping of the project as a virtual program. Participant families collected the supplies at a weekly contactless pickup and completed the classes and assignments at home.

The switch to a virtual format had many unintended positive consequences. Three highlights were:

• The whole family began participating. With in-person workshops, grandparents and their keiki between 9-13 years old participated. But with all the learning taking place at home, younger and older siblings — even teenagers — began to participate.

• Families spent more time together in the garden and the kitchen. Because they completed assignments at home rather than at the Extension Office, they were “planting seeds” to continue those activities after the program ended.

• Families worked together to take steps leading to greater self-sufficiency. During a pandemic when the national and global food chain was disrupted, each step toward producing some food needs is important.

With the virtual ‘Ohana Garden & Grindz project outcomes documented, we applied for and were awarded federal funds to sustain the project for an additional two years on Molokai and are seeking additional funds to expand the project to Lana’i, Maui and Hana.

This is just one example of creative thinking and communities coming together to address local needs through teamwork and education.

So how does this story relate to you — especially if you don’t live on Moloka’i?

The practice of thinking about and sharing positive experiences benefit both the person who experienced the event and those who hear the story. Reflecting and sharing can increase feelings of optimism and gratitude and can contribute to positive physical, social and emotional well-being.

Before finishing this article, take a few minutes to reflect and share. Think of a couple unexpected positive outcomes that have resulted from changes you have made because of the pandemic.

• Did these experiences just impact you?

• Did they impact your family or friends?

• With whom can you share your experiences?

• How will you share them — through a phone call, an email, a handwritten letter or an in-person conversation?

• And finally, when will you share your experience?

* Heather Greenwood Junkermeier is with the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, Maui Intergenerational and Aging Programs. Aging Matters covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Saturday of each month.

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