Lokahi fights loneliness in senior homes

The Lokahi Project works to end depression in senior homes.


Members of Lokahi take Aunty Violet, one of the seniors at Kulana Hale, horseback riding to fulfill her Grand WIsh. photo contributed by Mayele Bautista

Alexandria Buchanan, editor

The holiday season is the time of year when families and friends get together to celebrate. For many, it is a time of happiness, but for those without anybody to spend the holidays with, it can get lonely. Especially for the senior citizens who are alone in their elderly homes, unable to see their loved ones.

34 million Americans aged 65 and older suffer from some sort of depression. Most cases are caused by separation from their family and friends and can lead to suicide. Although it may seem unrealistic to stop all seniors’ loneliness, one group of students at McKinley High School made the first step to tackle this issue, one Wednesday visit to Kulana Hale at a time.

The Lokahi Project started four years ago at McKinley by students in the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders program. The group has made changes to the project, but has kept the same vision to make seniors feel welcomed, loved, included, and important to today’s society.

Senior Mayele Bautista, this year’s project lead, cares deeply about this project and has put in lots of time with her team to make it better. Depression impacts many of Hawaii’s senior citizens, and Bautista believes people should be more aware of this issue.

“Considering how most people have elderly relatives and grow old themselves, people should be more aware of what may affect the older population,” Bautista said. “My goals for this project is to expand Lokahi and spread what we do to many more people.”

To some, it may sound boring to hang out with the elderly for a couple hours every week. Many would think the age gap would create awkwardness during the visits. However, junior Hanseong Kim, another member of Lokahi, enjoys the project and has built many friendships with the seniors he visits.

“Once you get to know them, it just feels like you’re hanging out with your friends,” Kim said. “It makes me feel important because you are what they look forward to every week, and I feel that’s a step in helping senior citizens end loneliness and depression.”

The group visits Kulana Hale every Wednesday to participate in fun activities and crafts to bond with the seniors. Over summer, Lokahi plans a “Senior Prom,” a free event for the seniors to mingle, eat, and enjoy themselves.

“I am most excited about organizing the senior prom this year. We plan to make it bigger than ever,” Bautista said.

Last year, Lokahi introduced a new addition to the project, “The Grand Wish,” which follows the same concept as “Make a Wish.” Seniors have the opportunity to make a wish list, and Lokahi tries to grant their wish. They have successfully granted multiple wishes, including going horseback riding and a trip to the pumpkin patch in the fall. They hope to be able to fulfill more wishes by the end of the year.

“These are real-life situations in our society and for those reasons, we feel this is significant,” Kim said. “…Don’t wait, participate!”

If you are interested in helping, all students are welcome to participate. Lokahi welcomes anybody interested to come on the Wednesday visits to Kulana Hale, or volunteer for the Senior Prom. For more information, email [email protected], or go to the Students Activity Center.