Choosing Wellness

Change, choice, quality of life Hawaii’s aging Baby Boomers–and even younger Island residents–have a growing awareness of their unique personal health strengths and challenges.  This has prompted many to seek their own sense of wellness as the next important step toward a “new me.”

Most experts think of wellness as a proactive process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence.  Thus, it can be unique to each individual person. You can have a chronic ailment or physical disability, but still define your wellness by how you have seized, directed and enhanced your quality of life.  It’s looking at yourself as a whole person and not just your cholesterol level, how much you weigh or how well you manage your stress.

Experts agree that wellness now includes context—culture, community, family, social networks, physical environment, attitude and beliefs, social contribution, personal growth, consumer knowledge, and self-determination, among other dimensions.


Wellness activities can encompass:


sensible dieting; learning to cook for a diabetic or lower salt diet; and simply changing eating habits to reduce consumption of trans fats, red meats, simple carbs and increase foods rich in antioxidants, calcium, betacarotene and other nutrients.

Photo: Istock

Physical Fitness

working out to the latest in Pilates, spinning, pole dancing and/or staying with running, bicycling, swimming and other tried-and-true aerobics activities. Growing in popularity are weight training, range-of-motion exercises and body-core strengthening to strengthen bones to prevent osteoporosis and to maintain flexibility and balance to prevent falls later in life.

Brain Fitness

For many people, this includes intellect, memory and emotion: yoga, meditation, T’ai chi, pain and stress-reduction strategies (acupuncture, stretching, anger management and even four-day work weeks), as well as crossword puzzles, sudoku, computer and video brain games, volunteering, book clubs and even square and line dancing (remembering those tricky steps!).

Judy Shigemura’s journey toward her new self offers insights into how wellness is an ongoing and integrated part of personal living choices. The 60-something Honokaa, Hawaii native saw opportunity in retirement.


A petite Japanese woman less than five feet tall, but weighing 120 pounds, Judy knew her weight was a factor in her physical exhaustion, her ill-fitting clothes and her fitful sleep.


Retired after 30 years of teaching, Judy decided to work with a trainer. “It was hard in the beginning,” she says of the 30-minute cardio workouts. Her bone density in decline, her trainer began weight training and core-body strength training to prevent falls.

Life change

A major turning point for Judy and her husband was leaving their condo and moving to Kahala Nui, a senior living community in East Honolulu. “It opened up a whole new world and a lifestyle change for us,” she explains. “I no longer have to cook or clean and there’s a lot of intellectual, social, physical activities and new friends.

“Our focus at Kahala Nui is on wellness. You have to be able to live independently to move in, but there is the peace of mind from having continuum of care available as the need arises,” says Darlene Canto, Kahala Nui director of marketing. “Keeping our residents living independently is a great benefit that enhances their lives. It also enables us to offer a greater variety of enriching and affordable activities to active seniors.”   


On-site fitness facilities and trainers allow Judy to work out an astounding four hours daily.  Ease and access at Kahala Nui have allowed her to expand her horizons to include Tai chi classes, belly dancing, line dancing and currently hula classes, attending lectures, language classes, cooking demos, arts and crafts, volunteer work and computer games. Even her husband, a retired CPA, afflicted with back and leg pains, joined the gym and now goes daily to exercise.


“My daughter and I trade clothes since we now wear the same size,” chuckles Judy, who weighs 105 pounds, after losing 15.  She sleeps better and feels mentally alert. “My outlook is different, more optimistic. In many ways, I feel younger.”


Just because one lives in a stimulating and accessible environment like Judy, doesn’t mean all residents are like her. “There are residents who choose quieter lives and we take note of those who become more reclusive, as after the death of a spouse,” says Canto.

For Judy and others like her, a can-do attitude and curiosity helps their sense of wellness. “Wow, I can do this, was a great feeling, a great change for me,” she says. Her next goals: lower her cholesterol and learn to parallel park.


What the Experts Say 

There are many kinds of retirement communities in Hawaii, so experts recommend reading the fine print in the contracts. Here are two examples:

  • “Hawaii does not have nearly as many senior living options as the Mainland, but more are becoming available, particularly on Oahu. But not all are true continuing-care retirement communities (CCRC), which provide the last level of long-term and end-of-life care with comprehensive and skilled nursing. CCRCs provide a continuum of care – self-directed lifestyles (for active seniors and,) should the need arise, access to a continuum of high-quality care. Our members experience peace of mind about their futures.”—Linda Peacock, Lifestyle Counselor, ‘Ilima at Leihano, a CCRC, located in Kapolei, and one of 18 senior living communities in six states that are family-owned and operated by Kisco Senior Living.
  • “Life Care senior living communities are often the answer to a growing number of Hawaii seniors who can live independently now and desire access to affordable long-term care needs. Residents of “ownership” senior living communities, who own their own home, must make their own arrangements for care or move to another location. Rental retirement communities typically do not have the continuum of care (and) residents at rental communities who need a higher level of care are usually required to move out or pay an additional established daily rate."—Darlene Canto, marketing director, Kahala Nui, an East Honolulu Live Care community, which offers independent living, assisted living, comprehensive nursing and memory support on the same campus.





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