Cathy Godwin of Sister’s Fine Clothing exits the Starkville Sportsplex following the Baby Boomer and Senior Expo Monday. Around 60 vendors and hundreds of senior citizens attended the event. Photo by: Mark Wilson/Dispatch Staff
May 24, 2016 10:06:14 AM
It ain't easy getting old. First off, it's terribly time-consuming.
But there are many other perils, too. In many cases, to be old is to be isolated, lonely, vulnerable, confused. Old folks are often maligned, marginalized, mistreated and misunderstood - sort of like being a Mississippi Democrat.
It is beginning to dawn on me that I am well on my way to fitting into that demographic. It takes me twice as long to mow the lawn and half as long to comb my hair as it did 20 years ago. That's a sure sign.
Monday, I dropped in at the Starkville Sportsplex for the inaugural Baby Boomer/Senior Expo.
Event advertising said there would be lots of helpful information for seniors, as well as door prizes, food, even Bingo. Incidentally, I don't get the fascination old people have with Bingo. The phrase, "Under the B, 39" sounds like a death rattle to me. Perhaps someday I will have learned to love the game, but for now, I pray for a merciful death before I find myself, blotter in hand, waiting excitingly to hear that musical phrase, "Under the I, 17!" and win the coveted Angel Food Bundt Cake.
The expo was staged by the Golden Triangle Development and Planning Partnership, which administers federal and state grants for senior citizens throughout the GTDPP's seven-county service area. Last year, the GTDPP delivered more than 500,000 meals to the elderly. Executive Director Rudy Johnson said the GTDPP provides a variety services to anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 senior citizens each year.
The GTDPP's Cindy Brown had about a month to plan and stage Monday's event, and 60 vendors registered, a group that included a broad range of businesses, government agencies and organizations who provide goods and services to the elderly.
While the vendor response was impressive, no one could have anticipated the public response.
"Since this is the first year, we expected to have about 100 people come out," Johnson said.
The expo started at 10 a.m. By 10:10 a.m, the line of visitors extended 50 feet to the outer entrance of the facility. Vendors took one look at the amount of material they had brought to distribute and another look at the large crowd of seniors who serpentined along the rows of tables and wondered how long their supplies would last.
"We started a little over an hour ago and we've had 300 people come in already," Johnson said.
"We're blown away," said Brown. "We could never have dreamed so many people would come out. But I think it shows you that there is a real need for services. There are a lot of things available out there, but we find time and time again that a lot of our seniors don't know about them."
From healthcare to housing, law enforcement (how to avoid scams and a welfare check program) to recreation (martial arts classes), there are a multitude of groups out there who are either in the business of elder services or for whom helping seniors is a core value.
The turnout was encouraging. At the same time, the response is a powerful reminder that so many of our older people are in real need of help.
It will never be easy to grow old, of course.
But it doesn't always have to be so hard.
Deliver that message and people will line up out the door to hear it. You don't even need Bingo, although I am sure it doesn't hurt.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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