By Joel Hall
Seniors have more to worry about than just their health. On Friday, the City of Forest Park and the Forest Park Police Department attempted to address their needs from a holistic standpoint, during its first annual Senior Citizen Expo.
The event, which took place in the gymnasium of the Forest Park Recreation Center, brought together nearly 30 organizations focusing on the many needs of senior citizens: financial, medical, and social.
A variety of exhibitors talked to seniors about using computers, learning how to avoid becoming victims of mail fraud and identify theft, and about how to access their equity through reverse mortgages.
Chris Matson, a major with the Forest Park Police Department, helped coordinate the effort. Serving as the head of the city's Triad Program, an effort to reduce senior citizen victimization, Matson said the expo was a fun way to help the city's senior population become less vulnerable.
The goal of the Triad Program is "to improve the overall quality of life for seniors," said Matson. "We wanted to have an expo that would focus on every aspect that affects seniors, like crime, legal issues, and health. Everything we could think of, we wanted to get in here."
Representatives from Bank of America offered information on wills and estate planning, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offered advice on 401k benefits, entitlements, and retirement planning. Various health organizations informed visitors about diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.
Other groups gave Nintendo Wii demonstrations,and showed seniors how to become computer savvy.
Sparkle Adams, a Forest Park city council member, said the expo had been in the planning stages since 2006, and that she was pleased with the turnout.
"We always do health fairs, and I wanted to focus on not just the medical aspect of senior's lives," said Adams. "A lot of us, because of the economy, are being forced back into the work force, so they are dealing with issues that they may have never had to deal with before.
"This is a captive audience to get that information to the seniors," said Adams.
Between turns playing Wii Sports Bowling, JoAnn Crider said the event answered a lot of unanswered questions for her.
"Everyone is enjoying it very much," said Crider. "[Seniors] have a lot of questions that need to be asked. They can get questions answered that have been hanging in their minds since the bottom fell out of everything."