Wednesday, April 25, 2001

The Lunalilo Home, celebrating its 118th anniversary this
month, was recently renovated at a cost of $4.5 million.

Lunalilo Home
to reopen soon
in style

The care home for elderly
Hawaiians has been closed
for renovations

By Pat Omandam

HIDDEN FROM VIEW on the Ewa slopes of Koko Head Crater, it could be an old mansion, a secluded inn or a private school.

Instead, it is a testimonial to Hawaii's sixth king, William Charles Lunalilo, and his wish for a lasting elderly care home for those of Hawaiian ancestry.

"I believe that when William Charles Lunalilo established his home, he was addressing a need of our Hawaiian community which to that point had not been addressed by any of the other alii trusts -- that is, serving to care our elders," said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Long before Henry Kaiser developed Hawaii Kai into a sprawling residential middle-class neighborhood, there existed Lunalilo Home Road, named after the prominent red-roofed care home in operation there since 1927.

Revitalized for the new millennium after a four-year, $4.5 million renovation, the home celebrates its 118th anniversary this month with high expectations when it finally reopens its doors this summer.

Gregg Meyer, Lunalilo Home administrator, said the facility offers elderly Hawaiians who may need a little more care than their families can provide.

Administrator Greg Meyer shows furniture owned by the
home's founder, King William Charles Lunalilo.

"Often times, it's very difficult for a family to place their kupuna in a care home because they feel that maybe they're not doing enough," Meyer said last week.

"But modern families really don't have the expertise to properly give care services. It's very specialized and it's very demanding to take care of elderly people. And so we feel that we give them a lot of tender loving care, so to speak."

The average stay at the home is five years, although there have been residents who have stayed for as long as 30 years and as short as three months, Meyer said.

The home was originally built in 1914 as a dormitory for workers and officers of the Marconi Wireless Co. It now can accommodate 42 residents in private and shared bedrooms. Some bedspace was lost due to the renovation.

Once entirely visible from the Lunalilo road, the five-acre site is mostly hidden by residential leasehold lots, which the trust was forced to sell under the mandatory 1980s lease-to-fee conversion laws.

Today, a faded Hawaii Visitors Bureau sign marks the site. And the acreage is all that remains of the trust's once vast landholdings.

Lunalilo, who was Hawaii's first elected king, was born Jan. 31, 1835, and died Feb. 3, 1874, after a one-year reign. He required trustees of his estate -- which at one time was said to contain about 70,000 acres in Hawaii -- set up a care home for aged Hawaiians.

It was said much of the land was sold before the first Lunalilo Home opened in 1883 at what is now Roosevelt High School. It remained there until it moved to Hawaii Kai in 1927.

Safety was the primary reason to upgrade the steel-reinforced concrete building. Along with federal ADA improvements, there were improvements to level the floors of showers and walkways, to improve electrical and plumbing to meet current building codes, and to install an elevator in the new elevator wing.

A concrete walkway with handrails and rest stops now circles the main building. A backyard patio was expanded and a kupuna flower garden was planted with white and yellow ginger, orchids, ilima, gardenia and pikake to provide residents with fresh flowers.

"One of the things we know by experience is that the more places you provide to the elderly, the more they feel they got out of the house and went somewhere," Meyer said.

Inside, there are new vinyl floors, wooden dining tables and beds, an expanded kitchen, a snack bar and an ohana room for day activities. A reed organ, piano and projection TV provide some of the entertainment.

Hawaiian-print bedsheets and curtains decorate the private bedrooms and four-bedroom wards. Double-panel windows replace the troublesome jalousies and help cool down the building.

Meyer stressed the home is meant for those who need a little help getting around and is not a nursing home, an intensive care facility or a hospice. A nurse is on duty 24 hours a day to help residents administer their medication.

"We're really kinda small, lean and mean ... We're not wealthy like some of the other trusts, so we really have to watch our expenses, and also generate revenues to make up deficiencies at times," Meyer said.

The average monthly cost per resident is $3,000, and the home will make every effort to help those who may want to reside there but don't have the financial means. For more information, call 395-1000.

R.M. Keahi Allen and Eugene Tiwanak are the current trustees. The third trustee retired after reaching the mandatory trustee retirement age of 70. The state Probate Court will appoint a replacement.

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