PLANNING AHEAD: ‘I Know Expo’ returns to Lexington Center in April

by Kim Thomas

In speaking with a fellow baby boomer earlier this week, he revealed he had been
taking care of his brother who has Alzheimer’s. He had awakened that morning with a rifle pointed at him; his brother thought he was a stranger sleeping in his home.

My neighbors at the senior living center held a frantic meeting yesterday to discuss what happens (i.e., the cost) when keys to common-area doors are lost. It costs nearly $700 when a resident loses her keys and that does a lot of damage to the pocketbook of one living on a fixed income.

Friends my age are becoming more forgetful and fear accompanies that — fear of losing their keys or their memory or their car or driving privileges — fear that can be paralyzing in some cases. Fear doesn’t have to be a part of the aging process, but careful planning does, and there are resources available to help.

It has been estimated that 60,000 members of the baby boomer generation turn 60
every day in the U.S. That creates a large group of seniors who are enjoying their golden years, but who also might be struggling with the health and medical and financial challenges that often accompany aging.

Sure, it’s nice that Kroger and LexTran have senior discounts, but it’s no cakewalk to be the sole caregiver for a spouse, parent or older sibling; it’s not easy to physically or financially maneuver the avenues of opportunity, either. The new options for nearly everything are confusing at best, and we seek advice from those who we consider wiser and more well informed on everything from finances to healthcare.

The “i know expo” was created to address these issues in a one-stop-shopping format, in the form of a one-day expo. This year’s event will be held April 12 at Lexington Center.

The answer to many problems and adjustments encountered by seniors and the ones who love them will be addressed by the exposition’s exhibitors and speakers. The good news is that the (free admission) i know expo can help folks young and old plan for the future with more confidence.

The expo will showcase products such as health solutions, financial services, personal care services including homemaking, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, skilled nursing and home health aid services, health education and counseling services and many more related products and services, etc., in the Medical and Pharmaceutical, Business Services industries.

The Expo’s mission is to arm you with what you need to know to plan for the future: care for someone you love, live with disabilities, age with joy and grace.

This expo is the brainchild of Gale Reece, founder, who says it all started with transportation issues. “The i know expo grew out of ITNBluegrass. Independent Transportation Network — dignified transportation for seniors. In 2006, I began the effort to start the local affiliate of the national private non-profit for senior transportation.”

“Today ITNBluegrass is the 4th oldest active affiliate in the country. Last December, we passed the 40,000 ride mark in 6.5 years of matching volunteers and our senior members for rides in Fayette County. The paid and volunteer drivers use their own private cars to transport those 60+ and visually impaired adults who are members of the organization,” (members pay a modest annual fee). “We successfully had Kentucky legislation changed to allow drivers to use their own insurance when driving seniors for a non-profit.”

Through the years, Reece began to notice requests for additional information about senior services from the families of members to Ride Coordinators and the Executive Director. Accordingly, Reece devised the idea of a one day, one place expo for information and services in the community. She adds, “Our target audience is adult children of frail elders (generally working women between 45 – 70), those caring for loved ones with disabilities and all in my Boomer generation (72,000 in Fayette County), who should be preparing for our own aging situations.”

Accommodating such a large and growing population is a challenge. Reece points out, “This is why we hold it on Sunday afternoons — for those working folks to come out and get more information in a few hours than they could in hours on the phone and/or internet. The first expo was April of 2013. Over the last two years, we have had 750-1000 people through the doors, 60-80 exhibitors and more than 20 speakers on everything from legal, financial, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, caregiving, care for the caregiver, aging in place, home adaptations,, etc.”

Reece emphasizes that in addition to the annual expo, there are also Sunday Sessions. “Four times per year, at the Lexington Seniors Center, we present one of the topics of interest in the aging/disability area. This year these sessions will be held in January, May, September and November.”
According to Reece, finding Expo sponsors and partners has been an integral part of the organization’s growing popularity. “From the first planning in 2012, Fayette County’s major senior organizations joined us in the effort. Sanders Brown Center for Aging at the University of Kentucky, the Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities (and the aging dept.), the Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living (state and federal programs) joined ITNBlugrass is putting this event together. AAARP has been a major sponsor from the beginning. This year UKHealthCare is our top sponsor. Our goal from the beginning is to reach citizens not already plugged into Social Services and confused about what is available for aging well and living with disabilities or as a caregiver.”

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This article also appears on pages 14-15 of the April print edition of the Hamburg Journal.