Senior Symposium in Lafayette offers support to older adults
By Lou Fancher
Aging by design instead of by default.
That will be on display Aug. 5, at the Lafayette Community Foundation’s ninth annual Senior Symposium. The resource fair is free and features presentations by experts on aging, and a panel discussion on lifestyle, medical, assisted living, and aging-in-place support available to older adults.
Up-to-date information is offered by 45 local vendors invited to participate by the foundation, in collaboration with the Lafayette Senior Service Commission.
“There are a lot more seniors now,” said co-chair Anne Grodin, about the annual event’s growth, especially in the last few years. Approximately 300 people are expected.
“Seniors attend, often with their adult children or caretakers. There’s a huge bubble of aging baby boomers and people want to stay in the community. Figuring that out — when you’re not as active as you used to be — is part of the challenge,” she said.
According to a Bay Area Census report, between 2000 and 2010, the older adult population has grown from approximately 14.4 percent of the total population to 16.6 percent.
Fortunately, services are rapidly expanding or being created. The result? More seniors find ways to remain in their homes or discover the living situation of their choice. A broad range of services are available.
Grodin said that although she’s only 69 years old, able to drive and lives independently, she still discovered a useful resource at the fair.
“I went to the fair thinking there wasn’t going to be anything that applied to me, but I found HICAP (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program). They provide free, confidential counseling and community education for California Medicare beneficiaries.”
HICAP volunteers helped Grodin to understand the ramification of a working, nonworking or deceased spouse when signing up for Social Security benefits. With Medicare, there were endless options.
“It’s complicated, but they’re trained and they actually help you to fill out the forms to get the things you need. They don’t write your personal information down, so it’s all confidential.”
Safety is a primary aspect for aging in place — from climbing ladders to change lightbulbs to transportation for seniors who no longer drive to receiving medical care in the home. Co-chair Sereta Churchill writes in an email that seniors face continuous, life-changing decisions.
“Our goal is the give them the information to make those decisions in an informed and timely manner,” she noted.
Keynote speaker Jennifer Cave-Brown is a registered nurse and the Stroke Program coordinator at John Muir Health. She will be speaking about recognizing and preventing strokes. David Garcia is a senior physical fitness consultant and will address the how and why of senior fitness.
Panelists offering discussion and information about services and facilities for seniors include Anne Ornelas, Lamorinda Village; Elaine Clark, Meals on Wheels and Senior Outreach Services; and Kate Burkart, Merrill Gardens. Churchill said there will be ample time for a Q&A following the panel.
Grodin said, “They’ll talk about assisted living, food delivery options, staying in your home to age. Sometimes you can’t stay in your home, even though most people want to. But even with assisted living, there are many levels of care. The activities have increased as people move before they absolutely have to.”
Even so, in-home care and information about aging in place is most in demand.
“Every year, there are more certified agencies providing in-home caregivers and help groups for people who are 70 and don’t want to climb a ladder to trim the trees,” said Grodin. “Often, you don’t have to pay a handyman or professional service for many things: now, there’s a community that can help you. The fair is where you find it.”
The fair is underwritten by John Muir Health and supported by local businesses, service providers and establishments. Funds raised go to the Foundation and are reinvested in the community through events, grants and services.