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Agency on aging hosts 14th conference on healthy living

By JR Ortega
May 17, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.

Kathy Frels, a  Wesley nurse with Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, performs screening for seniors at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. Ann Monney had a perfect glucose reading of 90, but had a slight detection of a heart murmur.

Texas Age Breakdown

50-55: 6,874,446

55-60: 5,199,577

60-65: 3,776,653

65-70: 2,601,886

70-75: 1,748,786

75-80: 1,129,630

80-85: 652,385

85 & older: 305,179

SOURCE: Administration on Aging, aoa.org, Census 2010

Joyce Mitchell's eyes flutter to a close. Her head drops down as a masseuse from Citizens Healthplex slowly rubs her neck, removing any tension the 74-year-old may have had.

The cost was free. The wait was no more than five minutes.

What may sound like a first-rate spa was actually the Golden Crescent Area Agency on Aging's 14th annual Healthy Aging Conference.

The conference at the Victoria Community Center offers free screenings, exhibitors and educational presentations. This year's big addition was free pneumonia vaccinations, a shot that usually costs about $68.

"It's very educational to my health," said Mitchell, who traveled from Wharton. "It's important to keep up with your body."

Mitchell has attended most of the conferences over the years.

Cindy Cornish, the agency's director, who has been part of the agency for almost 20 years, still remembers the first conference, which had about 40 people in a small room in the community center.

"We went from 40 to 700 people," Cornish said. "We hope it gets bigger and bigger. We are all about our seniors."

Several doctors met in the community rooms to talk about issues, such as preventing falls, Medicare fraud and communicating with health professionals.

Plenty of brochures and other goodies were available from exhibitors such as Premier Sleep Disorders Center, several nursing homes and assisted living centers and Crossroads MRI, which ran out of prizes for people who were learning about the business.

Melissa Morales, who works with Crossroads MRI, said their business comes to the conference each year to promote alternatives for those who may not realize there are options.

"We want to get the word out," she said. "It's good for them to have options."

At the other side of the community center, DeAnna Alvarez, of Texas AHEC East-Victoria Region, helped with administering pneumonia vaccinations, one of their most popular booths.

"We have high admissions rate in area hospitals for pneumonia," Alvarez said.

The vaccinations are part of a $150,000 grant with the county, she said.

Those at risk of pneumonia tend to have cardiovascular disease, are older than 65 and have diabetes.

Margaret Mahan already had her glucose and cholesterol checked and received her pneumonia shot at several of the other booths.

She was waiting to check her blood pressure.

"It's great," the 63-year-old Victoria woman said about the event.

Mahan also held a bag filled with several brochures, candies and other freebies.

"I'm still going around the center," she said, laughing.

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