Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Senior Expo offers healthy tips

No one seemed to be aging in place Tuesday at the Customers Bank Senior Expo, where people hustled in crowded vendor aisles, moved to the music of Elvis or took the measure of Medicare and its changes.

The all-day expo benefited Berks Encore, the senior service agency, and featured flu shots, health screenings, nutrition lectures, a fashion show, skating exhibition, senior art show, shopping tips and more than 130 vendors.

The event was held at the Body Zone Sports and Wellness Center, Spring Township, and attracted about 3,350 seniors.

While the attendance number dropped from the estimated 4,000 figure at last year's event, it appeared many seniors were more intent on finding specific information about health and fitness, nutrition, medical care and senior living options.

"This is the third year I've been here and I think it's great for all the older people," said Bette Fisher, 77, of Exeter Township. "I don't have any medical problems, but I do pick up all the literature."

"I come to look at all the health treatment possibilities," said Evelyn Kuter, 70, of Boyertown. "You need to get different views (on health matters) because the doctor is not a god anymore."

More seniors, particularly in their late 60s and 70s, stressed that they wanted to be educated on options available to them in all areas affecting their life.

Calling for more chairs for seniors at an afternoon session on Medicare changes, John Vogel, a trained Medicare specialist and Berks Encore volunteer, drew an audience of nearly 100 people, some of them torn between listening to him, but not wanting to miss a later performance of Jeff Krick, an Elvis impersonator.

"You know there has been an Elvis sighting," yelled one audience member to Vogel.

"They'll be back, they always come back," said Vogel, noticing a few seniors who stepped inside the door only to turn around and leave.

For some seniors, the Senior Expo was a completely new experience, but they trumpeted the convenience of being there.

"This is my first time here, and it's very nice," said Carl Bechtel, 70, a retired carpenter who worked for casket and organ businesses. "It's really good to have everything in one place."

"This is huge I didn't think it would be this big," said another first-timer, Theresa Kazmierczak, 77, of Reading, a retired office clerk. "That's why I'm sitting down. I'm tired."

One of the more popular events involved several talks and cooking demonstrations by Meredith Mensinger, Redner's Warehouse Markets dietician, showing seniors how to shop economically and stick to a dietary plan without feeling restricted or deprived.

She whipped up three recipes - turkey burgers, chicken chili and tortilla soup - before an audience of about 40.

"I call it assembling, not really cooking," Mensinger quipped.

"But I feel a lot of seniors are just overwhelmed with all the information floating out there," said Mensinger, a Redner's nutritionist for four years. "I used to work in a hospital, but this is a way to reach seniors every day."

And 72-year-old Barbara Shalters of Wernersville, sitting in Mensinger's audience, spoke up on her behalf.

Diagnosed last spring with celiac disease - a faulty absorption of gluten in the intestine - Shalters said she called Redner's and Mensinger offered to take her on a tour to show her the foods she should be eating and avoiding.

"She was absolutely wonderful, and that's the kind of help we really need whether the problem is diabetes, heart disease or obesity," Shalters said.