By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
Lions, and tiger, and bears, oh my! The Bell County Expo Center was full of Dorothys, Tin Men, Lions, Scarecrows, and Totos milling about and visiting with area seniors for the annual Senior Expo. It is designed to showcase businesses, organizations, and activities in our area that are geared towards senior citizens, making the Central Texas community a senior friendly place to live and call home.
The theme for this year’s Senior Expo was the Wizard of Oz. All 104 booths had fun and got into the theme in some way, by either dressing up, decorating their entire booth, or adding their own Emerald City flair. Seniors were able to make their way through the aisles and visit with the vendors to gather pertinent information on nutrition, fitness, health, housing, financial planning, medications, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, and various leisure activities.
The event brought in record breaking numbers of seniors this year, topping nearly 1,100 in attendance. By 8:30 when the doors opened, there was already a line of people waiting to come inside. “This is my first year participating in this event,” commented Lita Daniel, owner of Regain your Space. “I had no idea there was going to be so many people. It’s just crazy. But we are having so much fun.”
The event also included two special presentations. First, Javier Banchs MD, Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing of Baylor Scott & White spoke about atrial fibrillation (AF) followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Dr. Banchs’ talked about the burden of AF, what it is, the statistics, how an abnormal rhythm is detected, symptoms, associated risks, why AF is a problem, and what can be done. Each speaker was joined by approximately 100 interested parties, setting a record for the expo.
Next, William D. Nash, MD, a retired family physician and blogger, spoke about Alzheimer’s disease. “I have the unique opportunity to see Alzheimer’s from three different perspectives,” Dr. Nash explained. “First, I have a strong family history of Alzheimer’s disease,” to include his mother and two brothers. “Second, as a physician, I have treated patients with Alzheimer’s. Finally, I myself have the precursor to the disease.”
Dr. Nash shared his personal story of being diagnosed with early mild cognitive impairment (MCI) amnestic-type, the various tests typically undertaken, struggles, setbacks, and realizations he had to make with the progression of his disease, as well as his participation in the Alzheimer’s disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), which is one of the largest research studies of its kind.
Several vendors were providing free health screenings, including balance screenings from Select Physical Therapy, spinal alignment screenings from Montgomery Chiropractic, flu shots from Scott and White Pharmacy, hearing tests from Martin Hearing, and vital signs from Scott and White as well as Seton Medical Center.
No matter where they decided to make a stop, there was always someone available to provide them with more information about different retirement communities, nursing and rehab facilities, talking book programs, Medicare, Medicaid, various federally funded and Veterans programs, receiving help with making after-life arrangements, as well as a myriad of other services catered to seniors. As if all the information, handouts, and goodies from the booths weren’t enough, participants also had the opportunity to snag door prizes.
Cecil McGarrett and wife Janet from Austin seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their time wandering about. “We had friends who came to the Senior Expo last year with the Roaring 20’s and heard so many good things about the fun they had and the people they met so they coaxed us to come with them this year,” said Cecil. “It was so nice to meet all these people and their businesses. We really had fun.” Janet added that they are planning on attending the event again next year, “although we will probably make room in the trunk for all the free handouts and tidbits the businesses give…and hopefully a door prize too.”
All in all, the Senior Expo with the Wizard of Oz theme was once again a huge hit with both the attendees as well as the participating businesses. With the amount of services and support we have for our area seniors, it’s easy to see why Central Texas is the place to be. There’s no place like home.