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Conference brings several hundred senior citizens to learn about health

By JR Ortega
May 20, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

Dr. Christopher Chaput discusses the consequences of aging on the human spine during the last session of the Heathy Aging conference on Thursday. The event was meant to educate people about healthy lifestyles and health care.

Connie Ramirez doesn't let anything get in her way, much less her age.

So when the 75-year-old Victoria resident cranks up that electric mower and edger and takes charge of her yard, you better stand back - she's going full steam ahead.

Ramirez tries to continue to keep her life as active as possible and events like the 11th annual healthy aging conference at the Victoria Community Center Thursday, help reinforce that mind set.

"I came here to get information and to get the free testing and to see the exhibits," said Ramirez, as she waited her turn for a cholesterol screening. "They have a lot of information and goodies. I also came here to improve my quality of life and to, more or less, motivate me to continue in that direction."

After last year's event, Ramirez took a water class and got rid of the sluggish feeling she had, she said.

The event, hosted by Citizens Medical Center, Golden Crescent Area Agency on Aging and the AgriLife Extension office, brought together local doctors and speakers for healthy aging topic sessions as well as exhibitors geared at improving health, said Susan Morrison, the continuing education coordinator at Citizens who is also a part of the planning committee.

The 2000 U.S. Census reports that 12.6 percent of the Victoria population is 65 years and older.

This high population of aging residents make the event a valuable asset to the community, Morrison said.

"Our population is older than you find in many areas, such as Austin," she said. "People here tend to live a little bit longer and we want to make sure that those added years they have are good years and that they make them as good as they can."

Close to 600 people, including participants, volunteers and exhibitors, attended, she added.

It was not only senior citizens who were learning more about healthy aging.

Memorial High School junior Kara Frederick is in Health Occupations Students of America and was at the conference getting hands-on experience in interacting with a different age group.

"We're in the health science tech class. We just went through the section where we learn about aging and what happens to your body when you age," said Kara, who wants to become a physical therapist.

Kara and several other students passed out survey satisfaction cards to attendees as they walked around the center and picked up goodies available at different booths.

Naomi Odom, 68, had already walked around the booths and picked up several information packets on stroke, mental health and even received a comfort gripper to open jars.

Odom has been to the event four of five times in the past, she said.

This year, she attended a class about senior safety around the house in which a member of the Jackson County AgriLife Extension Office talked about preventive measures to make life more comfortable and risk-free.

"As seniors, when you live alone, you need to be aware of everything," Odom said.

The one thing the Victoria resident always takes with her is the socialization she experiences with others in the community who are her age, she said.

"It's very, very important," she said about having an event like this in the Crossroads. "This way you can come out and socialize with people and not sit at home and you know what's going on."



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