Editor’s note: This is one of a series of Community Voices about the experiences of those who provide care for elderly family members and other kupuna.

For 10 years, my grandmother stuck to one schedule –– woke early enough to watch darkness turn to light, rode the city bus full of other early birds, and brought herself into an endless cycle of supporting herself.

When my grandmother was 63 years old, she needed to stop working because of her health conditions. She was getting old; therefore, she was getting weak. Her leaving her job was indirectly due to her age.

The year 2014 was when my grandma decided to take an early retirement. My grandmother’s job required her to carry a lot of heavy things, which was incredibly difficult to do for a lady with so many years on her back. Her family members supported her decision to retire early.

Because of her decision to retire early, my grandmother needed to adjust her spending habits – which led her to consider government assistance. Due to the fact that English was my grandmother’s second language, doing more research about government help was a challenge. She said, “Yes, it was hard finding out more about government help, so, I asked your dad (her son-in-law) to help me with the researching and signing.”

With the help of her son-in-law, she learned that she qualified for Medicaid. Medicaid supports individuals and families of low-income who are under the age of 65.

The majority of the information we need today is accessible through the Internet and computers but my grandma is technologically challenged. She’d like it if information had an easier way of being accessed, hinting that it shouldn’t be through technology.

However, with today’s growing evolution of media and technology, the idea of gaining insight through anything but technology is slim. What did help was that someone who worked for the state did speak Ilocano, my grandmother’s first language.

A way for people like my grandmother to become more comfortable with today’s technology is for the government to provide more free adult technology education. Free computer training for the elderly may help people of this age to become more exposed to day-to-day computer activities. Similar to the way we are exposing younger generations with technology and media at an early age, doing the same for elderly people, but at a later time, I think, can help them be more relaxed with the media we are using everyday.

My grandmother is about to turn 65 years old. She still takes care of herself; though, being able to cook, do her own laundry, and feed her dog will be a challenge as she grows older and as her health declines. As she ages, she will depend on relatives for knowledge-based help and resources.

When I asked her how she felt about being in a care home, she said, “I’d rather stay home and be cared for by family members rather than paid-non-family related workers.”

Because the majority of care homes are expensive, she’d rather be cared for in her own home. Although being cared by someone who isn’t a family member isn’t ideal, the Kupuna Care Assistance Bill would certainly help my grandmother. The government passing this bill would bring relief to our family.

My grandma did say she will worry about who’ll care for her in the future because her own kids will be busy supporting their own. As my grandma lives with us, another worry she has is what would happen if she didn’t have a home — what would happen if my parents moved out of the state? Who would watch over those who helped our keiki?

When the times comes, the government can get a qualified caregiver to help my grandma and others in the same situation. I’d like it if there were a way to help my grandmother worry less.

People in their silver years aren’t useless. They watch over their grandchildren like their own; they even help others older than they are. They use every ounce of their strength to help their family.

We can do the same for our kupuna. We need to recognize the needs of those in their silver years and do something to give them respite.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org.

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