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Conference to shed light on aging

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“People want to be who they want to be,” said Karen Wolford, executive director of the Yellow Springs Senior Center. This maxim applies to people of all ages, and especially to area seniors. Area seniors are embracing all life has to offer, she said, and are proud of the accumulated wisdom and experience of their years. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some uncertainties that go along with aging.

The Yellow Springs Senior Center is hosting a daylong conference that aims to answer some of these questions. The conference, entitled “the 2016 Conference on Aging,” is presented in partnership with the Greene County Council on Aging and will be held at Antioch University Midwest on Saturday, Sept. 24. The conference begins at 9:30 a.m. and the last session ends at 3 p.m. Wolford said the conference is the first of its kind for the Senior Center and is designed to be a kind of “one-stop overview of getting older in America.”

“There are things we just don’t think about,” Wolford said. “Fifty-year-olds don’t think about the later stages of life like an 80-year-old might.”

As such, the conference will feature workshops and presentations covering a number of topics relevant to an aging population. Sessions will cover scams and fraud targeting the elderly, balance and fitness, healthy eating and legal processes like preparing documents and understanding the powers of their power of attorney. The conference costs $15 and includes lunch, though the conference is currently at capacity. However, given the overwhelming interest, Wolford said she hopes the conference will become an annual or semi-annual event.

While the Senior Center generally defines seniors as people 55 and older, the information presented at the conference will be helpful to anyone who is aging, beginning to age or taking care of someone who is aging, Wolford said. The conference will also help foster communication among generations, as the elderly of today are of a generation not quick to talk about what they’re going through, she said.

Moreover, the conference is especially relevant to Yellow Springs, which has a fairly high percentage of elderly residents, she said. According to the 2010 US census, 21.6 percent of the Yellow Springs population is aged 65 or older, while a further 18 percent is between 55 and 64.

Karen Puterbaugh, the executive director of the Greene County Council on Aging, will be leading a workshop on downsizing, providing strategies and tips for “compassionate downsizing.” Going through a lifetime of accumulated goods can be daunting and very emotional, as the person will no doubt be reminded of important events and times from the entirety of their life, she said. The workshop aims to help attendees learn how to tell their story while doing so.

In fact, Wolford said she has personal experience with this process. Her mother was downsizing after her father passed away, and gave a ping-pong table to her grandson. Her grandson was able to play a lot of ping-pong, and especially enjoyed hearing stories about his grandpa, who likewise got good use out of the table.

Another workshop will discuss ways in which a person can facilitate movement around the house. In America, Wolford said, people want to “age in place,” meaning that they would prefer to stay in their homes as they age (as opposed to going to an assisted care facility). The “universal design” segment of the conference will cover ways in which people can make their homes more accommodating, such as making homes wheelchair accessible and lowering cupboards and faucets. The idea is to help people be “successful, safe and comfortable at home,” Puterbaugh said. Falls are the “leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults,” according to the National Council on Aging.

Some troubles also come from outside the home. Scams abound that specifically target the elderly, including cemetery and prescription drug fraud, bogus investment opportunities or unnecessary home repair schemes. A representative from the office of the Ohio Attorney General will lead a session highlighting these crimes in order to make people more aware of the tactics scammers use to gain an unwitting victim’s confidence.

On a more positive note, the conference’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Larry Lawhorne, a professor and Chair of Geriatrics at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, who will present “intriguing research … and recommendations” for managing the unique experiences of aging, according to the event’s program. Yellow Springs resident Aurelia Blake will “send the audience off in flight” with an “inspiring and empowering” presentation called “Be a Sparrow.” Wolford said she hopes that attendees leave empowered and full of answers.

“Greene County is a great place to live and a great place to retire,” Puterbaugh said. “We’re helping get people together to think of ways to make their aging experience better.”


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