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The Second Half: Rockin’ the Senior EXPO

September 16, 2009

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Columnist

Recently, I received a flier about a big event coming up, Senior EXPO 2009. You might remember my first attendance at the EXPO was last year about this time. You would have found me exhausted and beaten by my EXPO-inexperience: aching feet, shoulders hunched over from carrying all the loot, and my hand was cramped into a knotty fist from writing my address for the many, many drawings for gifts and prizes.

“Amateurs!” one old guy snorted, as my 70-something friend Pat and I collapsed outside to wait for a shuttle.

The smiling lady who worked the door responded: “This was their first EXPO. They’ll know better next time!”

Beaten by EXPO in the prime of my life.

“That won’t be the case this year,” I boasted to Hubby, “I’m studying. I’m prepared. I’m cheating!” With an incredulous look, Hubby went outside to polish the Harley. More on my plan later…

Lifescape Community Services puts on this event each year, the same folks who produced the Senior Follies last May in their fantastic musical revue, Puttin’ on the Ritz. The Lifescape Mission is “To provide relevant and up-to-date information, education, and recreation to older adults, their families, and caregivers.” This worthy organization does more than most. Check out these services:

Nutrition—dietitian-approved meals five days a week through Meals on Wheels and Senior Dining Sites.

Adult Day Services—Bright Side Adult Day Services in two locations, Belvidere and Rockford.

RSVP—Retired & Senior Volunteer Program provides volunteer opportunities for folks age 55 and older in local non-profit agencies throughout Winnebago and Boone counties.

Senior Assist—for folks age 60 and older, assistance includes, but is not limited to, benefits screenings and application/paperwork assistance, caregiver training and support, transportation, and services to grandparents raising grandchildren. For services not offered directly through Lifescape, they provide referrals to varied service providers in the community.

Secretly thrilled I am not yet old enough to receive or participate in some of their services, I decided to whine a little anyway: “AARP says I’m a senior at 50! What if I wanted to participate now? How could I not be old enough?”

Hubby never looked up from his polishing, just responded dryly, “You’ll get there, Baby.” (Déjà vu—I think I had this exact same conversation with my Mom when I was 14!)

Back to the EXPO: it is a big event at the Sportscore II Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside, in Loves Park. Last year, they had a lot of road construction going on, so we parked at Farm & Fleet and took the buses. But if you park in the Sportscore lot, golf carts dart around picking up riders. The EXPO opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Sept. 17-18, or go to the Kickoff Event Wednesday night, Sept. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m.

EXPO is actually the largest community outreach event in northern Illinois, with more than 5,000 people attending every year. The theme this year is “Rockin’ ’n’ Rollin’ with Change”—I am hoping there will be some aging rockers as the musical entertainment.

Last year, I wandered upstairs to the restaurant for a reasonably-priced and tasty lunch, but not before we made the circuit of every table in the East Room.

“Oh, look,” I exclaimed to Pat over and over, “they have chocolate, too!” About 75 percent of the tables had candy to give away—not crappy “parade candy,” but chocolates and little name-brand candy bars (the thing I like about over-50s is they don’t skimp on the treats). My blood sugar bounced around like a basketball.

They have something for every age group older than 50, even younger if you are a caregiver. Topics range from Preparing for Retirement to Travel & Leisure, including such workshops as Insurance, Pre-planning your Funeral, and Legal Services. There is continuous musical entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and a 50/50 raffle for the gambler in you. Take advantage of the on-site health screenings, too. And this event is FREE!

“What is this EXPO for, Mom?” 20-something Son asks. “Like, nursing homes?”

Well, Lifescape tells me they have two goals:

First, to help all of us, as we get older, to be nutritionally healthy, independent, connected and informed.

Second, to help our families, friends and caregivers handle the needs and challenges of our aging process. They are giving something back, just like our president is encouraging us to do.

Lifescape’s office is at 705 Kilburn in Rockford, but they serve older adults, their families, and caregivers in Winnebago, Boone, Lee and Ogle counties. Phone Lifescape at (815) 963-1609 or get on the Web at www.lifescapeservices.org for more information about EXPO or other services.

My five-point plan for beating the EXPO:

1. Wear gym shoes and socks, so I’m not limping after walking for five hours on concrete flooring.

2. Eat a good breakfast, so I don’t get sick on all the candy; then eat a good lunch.

3. Bring address labels, so I don’t have to fill out all those little papers for the prizes (last year I won a big basket of kitchen stuff and a cookbook from the OSF Home Health gang!).

4. Bring my own canvas tote bag so my give-away bag doesn’t rip and spill all my stuff on the floor…again.

5. Volunteer to work at the RVC-CLR table for a couple of hours, sitting around chatting about the classes and such. Come see me there Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.—we’ll “Rock the EXPO” together!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the September 16-22, 2009 issue.

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