Supporting seniors

Annual festival features expositions and activities for senior citizens
Sunday, September 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:19 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It’s not every morning that Patsy Perkins gathers in a group to envision little bird eggs under her armpits.

But then again, this is her first time practicing Tai Chi.

Perkins, 72, an office worker at the Oakland Senior Center, was among an estimated 700 seniors at the 14th annual Seniorfest on Friday.

Hosted by the NBA Lenoir Community Center and presented by the Boone County Council on Aging, the trade show featured some 40 exhibitors, a health fair, musical entertainment and the Tai Chi classes that piqued Perkins’ imagination.

“The more I did it, I felt my legs tingle, and my fingers,” Perkins said of her first experience with the popular martial art. “Then I felt the tingle in my tongue and even on the roof of my mouth.”

Wheelchair-bound for eight years, Perkins suffers from back and hip problems. After Friday’s session, she’s now considering taking Tai Chi classes through The Health Connection at the Parkade Center.

“It really relaxes you and helps you breathe,” she said.

Perkins has been a regular at the Seniorfest since its start. This year, she sat behind the counter of the Commerce Bank booth, alongside her daughter, Margaret Martin, a senior financial service representative and a veteran exhibitor at the fair.

At an adjacent booth, Kristie Davis tried to educate seniors about the changes facing Medicare participants.

As a lead trainer for Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri, Davis provides free health-insurance counseling for Medicare recipients. She has participated in Seniorfest activities for the past two years.

“We spread the word through print media and public service announcements,” Davis said, but admits that word of mouth is the program’s foremost method of outreach.

This year, the organization distributed more than 48,000 invitations in central Missouri for the event, at which Davis led an hour-long question-and-answer session with interested seniors.

But the most coveted event was the free health screening offered through Boone Hospital Center, the Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri program and the Columbia and Boone County health departments.

Services included cholesterol and blood pressure checks, glucose screenings, balance and posture assessments and heart checkups.

“My blood pressure is high,” said Ruth Murray, 85, after taking her turn in a long line of outstretched arms. “I guess I’m just excited.”

Murray, a retired Shelter Insurance worker, attended the event for the second time with her husband, Lawrence Murray, 87.

Like many others, the Murrays came to meet new people, get information and collect free knickknacks. Overloaded with goody bags, coffee mugs and free key chains, visitors perused the array of organizations waiting to unload their literature.

Leigh Nutter, volunteer coordinator for Columbia, is familiar with this scene.

“Often we see people that already volunteer, and it’s a nice opportunity to say hello,” Nutter said.

The Office of Volunteer Services has exhibited at Seniorfest since 2000. According to Nutter, there are several hundred seniors who currently volunteer with the city.

“We don’t come here to find masses, but if we meet a handful of people who are interested, it’s worth it,” she said.

Nutter stressed the importance of reaching out to the senior population.

“This is one of the few events that focus on seniors exclusively,” Nutter said.

Claire M. Stacy, 83, a retired Air Force pilot, appreciates the community’s interest in older people.

“I think it’s marvelous, and they should have them twice a year,” Stacy said.

In his second year of attendance, Stacy underscored the convenience of having so much information available under one roof.

“If you find out something you didn’t know, well, that’s the whole purpose,” he said.

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