The 17th Annual Portage Senior Health Fair welcomed seniors citizens from around the Northwest Indiana to Woodland Park. The annual health fair brings hundreds of people and vendors together for free health screenings, valuable information about health and wellness, and fun events for everyone to enjoy.
The fair is just one of many events put on by the Mayor’s Senior Advisory Committee for senior citizens. Over 70 vendors gathered at Woodland Park to offer screenings and address any person’s questions or concerns pertaining to their health.
“The Senior Health Fair is tailored specifically for the seniors in our community,” said Betsy Chinn, Director of Business Development for Life Care Center of the Willows and a member of the Senior Advisory Committee. “Former Mayer Olga Velazquez started this fair 17 years ago. Se felt that it was really important to give seniors in the community the resources that they need and give them the best quality of life.”
Every year, hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers, nonprofits, and more set up shop to provide screenings like blood pressure check-ups and hearing tests, and provide any information that seniors may not be aware of, but need for a healthy lifestyle.
“We try to have a variety of information and resources for our senior citizens,” Chinn said. “We have healthcare, information about chair lifts, and hospitals here today, as well as some fun things like a photo booth, door prizes, and a free lunch. It’s a fun day for everyone.”
Kevin Zwiers, Community Education Manager for the Behavioral Health Services of Community Healthcare System, has seen a continued negative stigma associated with mental health and feels it is important to highlight the resources their service provides to help erase that stigma.
“A lot of people still have a negative stigma and thoughts in regards to how we treat mental health in 2017,” Zwiers said. “So educating the general public about the services we provide outside of their initial thought process is our goal. We want to teach people about who we are and what we do.”
That sentiment could be found throughout the health fair Thursday morning. As senior citizens went from booth to booth, reading up on services and information they may not have known about before, representatives from businesses and organizations greeted them with friendly faces and answers to any and all questions.
“With this being the Senior Health Fair, which is what our business is, we want seniors to be aware of who we are and what services we provide,” said Judy Kukelka, Senior Lifestyle Counselor for Rittenhouse Village at Portage. “It’s a great and casual way for us to be able to meet seniors from around the community and encourage them to come in and visit.”
Donna Faitak, Supervisor of Women’s Imaging, and Danny Gonzalez, Health and Wellness Coordinator for St. Mary Medical Center are veterans of the Senior Health Fair and always look forward to promoting the importance of health education.
“We get to reach out to people and promote health and trying to prevent health scares from actually happening,” Gonzalez said. “We have multiple resources for the community that we want them to know about.”
“Really our goal here is to educate, educate, educate,” Faitak said. “We answer questions, we’re here for people, and we help prevent health scares and catastrophes.”
The fair is also a great place for organizations and businesses to network and see what other services are being offered. Melissa Janes, Hearing Aid Technician for Accurate Hearing Aid Services, loves coming to the annual fair and getting to know other businesses in the area.
“Not only are we here showcasing our services to the community, we are also seeing what everyone else is offering,” Janes said. “It’s almost like a fellowship between us all.”
Seniors came by the hundreds Thursday morning to learn more about how they can stay on top of their health and the countless number of services Northwest Indiana has to offer.
“I like to come and see all of the new things they have for us seniors,” said Judy Torres of Portage. “You don’t all of what they have here until you get here and you’re amazed. There’s hearing aids and free check-ups. It’s really great and something I love coming to.”