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It’s an old story about being old.
Suddenly, there’s all this extra time to fill. Your body is weird and doesn’t work the way it used to. It’s too easy to watch TV or surf online and wait for something to happen.
The people behind Sullivan County’s Senior Expo argue that something has already happened: the next stage of your life has begun.
Bonnie Lewis and Karin Pantel from OATS (Older Adult Transitional Support), plus Caryn Mathews from RSVP/Senior Corps (the Retired Senior Volunteer Program), along with the county’s Office for the Aging, are working with others on the fourth annual expo, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22 at the Monticello Firehouse.
The theme is “Connect, Create, Contribute,” said Lewis. “Seniors have to stay active.”
The Senior Expo is primarily meant to introduce seniors and their families to the wide range of help out there. “It’s a really good resource for people to see everything we have in Sullivan County,” said Lise-Anne Deoul, head of the county’s Office for the Aging.
But this year’s theme reminds us that the mere act of giving back helps seniors be healthy, too.
Lewis, who is also the dependent-care educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Caregiver Resource Center, said, “They need the stimulation. They need to share the knowledge they’ve accumulated.”
“Just because you aren’t going to a job doesn’t mean you don’t have value,” said Mathews.
“Some not-for-profits, their budgets have been cut over the years,” Mathews continued, pointing out that nonprofits now rely heavily on volunteers to keep providing their services. Others have always used volunteers.
The possibilities for service are endless: thrift shops, historical societies, or museums like Time and the Valleys, which sees over 2,000 visitors a year and relies on merely 30 hours a week of staff time and the free time of many volunteers. Become a literacy volunteer and teach someone to read. Host a show at WJFF. Religious groups always need help.
But what if you can’t drive or are ill and homebound? There are still opportunities to connect and contribute. Start with creating; Deoul cited the Volunteer Knitters program. “The knitted items go to schools, nursing homes. Someone is still able to give back,” she said.
Or you can use video-call technology to keep in touch or attend meetings virtually. This even helps seniors who drive but who might not feel safe out in bad weather, Deoul said.
In fact, said Mathews, technology and social media will improve health. “Older adults using social media sites socialize more frequently… They get out socially more often.” You learn what’s going on, plan meetings and organize transportation.
The Expo is about more than volunteering. David Lederman from the NY Attorney General’s office will discuss phone and internet fraud. Bee Moser from Cornell Cooperative Extension will talk about healthy eating for seniors. Representatives from RSVP, health insurance companies, Action Toward Independence, the Red Cross, many vendors, hospice and family service groups will all be there. There will be presentations on tai chi for seniors, health screenings and much more.
“A goal of our efforts at events is to provide resources to people [for the future],” said Deoul. “We shouldn’t be a well-kept secret. We need to keep people independent so they can remain at home.”
For more information: Visit the Expo on Wednesday, May 22, 10 a.m to 1 p.m. It’s at the Monticello Firehouse on 23 Richardson Ave.
Contact: Ashley Tully, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 845/292-6180 x 100
RSVP/Senior Corps: Call Caryn Mathews, project director, at 845/807-0251
The Sullivan County Office for the Aging at the County Government Center, 100 North St., Monticello. 845/794-3000, x0241.