Aging in Paradise

Honolulu, Hawaii

The view from Lou's high rise condo in downtown Honolulu is not as beautiful as it once seemed. The state of Hawaii, once a destination for dreams, has seen brighter days. The islands’ two largest industries, tourism and military, are both under pressure as the state feels the sharp reel of both economic and political currents.

Adrift in the middle of the world’s largest ocean, Hawaii could be the center of the universe, but its costs of living are high, the opportunities are low, and the youth are leaving in droves to pursue life on the mainland. “It’s lovely to be here, people think it’s Eden,“ Lou said of his adopted Island home, “but we are far out in the middle in the ocean and opportunities to make a living here are very small.“

Originally from Chicago, Lou spent time in the service before finally setting his eyes westward. “I got my MBA from Berkeley in 1959 and, as a young Japanese American, I looked all around for the right opportunity and Hawaii was it.“ Lou's wife had a similar entrepreneurial drive. Formally a school teacher, she left education to start her own fashion consulting business where many of Honolulu’s finest would come to be dressed by her. As a team they lived and raised a family, using the equity through traditional mortgages to fund their children’s education and the costs of living in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

For Lou, however, the city in which he built his life and established his career, is his permanent home. “We’re on the threshold of being octogenarians,“ Lou said of wife and himself, “and we could see disaster coming down the pipe.“ Saddled with growing mortgage payments while on a fixed income, Lou searched for a way to extend his time in his home in Honolulu so that he wouldn’t have to, like his children, move away and abandon Hawaii.

As their careers came to a close, and with both husband and wife surviving their own private battles with cancer, expenses became too much to bear. Yet Lou, the experienced developer who new a good deal when he saw one, worked with Jean Seki of Reverse Mortgage Hawaii to pay off the existing mortgage and finance some additional expenses for the couple.

“I’ve been such a beneficiary of the reverse mortgage,“ said Lou. “We’d be homeless now if it wasn’t for the reverse!“ The couple’s two kids — their daughter finished just a few years behind Hawaii’s favorite son Barack Obama in school — have moved off to the mainland and their grandkids are not able to visit too often due to the expense. Lou notes, “As a young man, I thought that as I got older, my kids would be able to take care of us, but then circumstances change and you have to support yourself. Having the reverse sure does help keep the blood pressure down though. I don’t have the fear of getting kicked out on the street.“

For Lou, part of longevity is that you’ve got to be useful to the very end. “I’ll die with my boots on,“ he said of his new financial security to stay in his home. With economic uncertainty looming, the view of the islands, and the country, still looks bleak from the 8th floor condo but with the newly secured residence and allowance to age in place on the Island they call home, at least it’s their view forever.

Lou concludes, “Material things don’t mean much to me. Here I am at my age, and the beauty of this reverse mortgage is that now I can spend the rest of my life in my home. What more can anyone ask for.“