Fun activities amuse seniors at wellness fair

NUKOLI‘I — First Hawaiian Bank has found the key to keeping people occupied during a wellness fair.

Hosting its 14th Kaua‘i PrimeTime Wellness Fair, the major sponsor of the event spread its activity booths throughout the field of 36 vendors at Kaua‘i Beach Resort, allowing visitors an opportunity to relax and have a respite from the flow of information.

“No one’s leaving,” said Roy Nishida, a volunteer with the East Kaua‘i Lions Club who was helping with the HMSA/Healthways Hawai‘i Flu Shots on Tuesday. “Everyone’s waiting for the bingo.”

Similarly, Kureen Medeiros of Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i drew large audience participation during her Zumba demonstrations, with guests, vendors and even resort staff members doing the rigorous dance moves in the aisles.

“We’ve had a lot of the hotel people come through for their flu shots,” Nishida said. “Overall, it’s been real good. The traffic has been steady.”

This is the second year the event has been held at the resort.

Visitors could also have other health and wellness related tests done, including glucose and cholesterol by Clinical Labs of Hawai‘i, blood pressure and oxygen saturation by nurses from the Regency at Puakea and BCP dba Nursefinders, and senior identification cards by the county’s Office of Elderly Affairs, one of the event sponsors.

AlohaCare, described as the third-largest health plan in Hawai‘i, was making its foray into Kaua‘i as a first-time vendor at the annual wellness fair. AlohaCare had the help of Marleen Ruiz and Emie Tanimoto who distributed information on the program which was started in 1994 by Hawai‘i’s Community Health Centers.

AlohaCare focuses on the underserved, low income and medically vulnerable members of the community through government-sponsored health insurance programs and has more than 170 employees in offices on O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island.

Senior Medicaid Patrol, or SMP Hawai‘i, offered tips on protection from Medicaid fraud and identity thefts while others concerned themselves with more immediate issues.

“Falls are one of the most common issues seniors are concerned with,” said Melissa Nitta of Wilcox Memorial Hospital. Nitta, along with Jane Narimatsu, Erin Rose and John Harlacher, offered a fall awareness and a series of tests to see the fall risk of seniors. “The most common reason why seniors are placed in care homes is because of a fall.”

Esther Shigeta, a Kaua‘i resident, joined Cullen Hayashida of kupuna monitoring system in offering seniors a means of getting help following a fall.

“We cannot prevent falls,” Hayashida said. “But we can improve the response in the event a senior falls.”

Nitta said each year, one in every three adults aged 65 and older suffer a fall, with about half of all falls taking place at homes.

“Falls are the most preventable cause of needing nursing home placement,” Nitta said. “It can be as simple as removing a throw rug in a popular walking path.”

Suzanne Hull of Honolulu was working with Charlyn Nakamine of the county’s Office of Elderly Affairs, informing people about the Senior Companion Program which allows people over 55 years old become “companions” to help combat the rising costs of health care by allowing caregivers much-needed respite, running errands or simply being a friend. Senior companions serve 20 hours a week and must be on limited income and not in the regular work force.

“We have stipends which do not affect their current incomes,” Hull said. “There are numerous other benefits to the senior companion in addition to them making a difference in a senior’s independence.”

Contact the county’s Office of Elderly Affairs at 241-4470 for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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