Healthy Aging Symposium Great Success

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HomePorts, Inc., the local non-profit aging-in-place organization for older adults, led a symposium at Washington College on Wednesday, March 30. “Healthy Aging: A Community Perspective” was co-sponsored by the local Area Agency on Aging (Upper Shore Aging, Inc.), the Center for Environment and Society of Washington College, and the Chester River Health System. The session combined nationally-known speakers with panelists of local practitioners.

A crowd of over 150 registrants confirmed local interest in becoming better educated about growing older. Noting that the Chester River Health System has “intellectual capital” as part of the University of Maryland Medical System, Jim Ross, CEO of Chester River Health System, introduced Dr. Steven Gambert, Director of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“It’s not too late to start paying attention,” he said, in a one-hour slide presentation titled Successful Aging, Medically Speaking. Confirming that normal aging is “universal, progressive, and irreversible,” he described ways to prevent the acceleration of normal aging through proper nutrition, exercise, and avoidance of environmental hazards. He pointed out the need for periodic medical screening, with those at highest risk being over 70, recently bereaved, disabled by a locomotor disorder, living alone, or recently discharged from a hospital.

Next, Dr. Allan Anderson, President of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, gave an Update on Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s disease is increasing in prevalence with no current curative treatment.

Dr. Steven Gambert

“Unfortunately, despite the aging of our population, medical students are not choosing careers in geriatric specialties, as indicated on the following slide. This might reach a crisis in delivery of medical care to the elderly and we need to find some solution to reverse this trend,” he cautioned. The audience was especially troubled by this situation.

An opening session was followed by discussion groups, and the keynote speaker, Joanne Grossi, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, discussing “Prevention: Improving Health Care for Seniors.” The audience expressed their concern about the lack of incentives for students to study geriatrics.

Speaking at the opening, Muriel Cole, President of the Board of Directors of HomePorts, emphasized that the topic of Healthy Aging is compelling and timely. “This is the first time that Washington College, Upper Shore Aging, and the Chester River Health System have partnered on an activity. Although these are very different organizations, the task of educating the community about growing older is a project that they all have in common,” she noted.

For those 55 or older, HomePorts members have access to a cadre of volunteers, as well as referrals to reliable local service providers for transportation, interior and exterior home maintenance, grocery and meal services, personal assistance and troubleshooting, and health and wellness activities. HomePorts also promotes awareness of complementary community services, encouraging access to social, educational, and cultural activities. For more information, call 443-480-0940, visit www.homeports.org, or e-mail info@homeports.org.

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