TOMS RIVER – The first Older Adults Health Fair hosted by the Ocean County Health Department recently drew more than 100 people looking for ways to improve their lives.
The Aug. 16 event featured 24 vendors/agencies inside and outside of the department’s 175 Sunset Ave. headquarters.
“This is our first event of this type for seniors in Ocean County and its focus is on bringing information about chronic disease, bringing awareness of our services to older residents and having many onsite agencies that will be presenting information to them,” Health Department representative Patricia High said.
Anne Brokin of Manchester was enjoying watching “Pixie,” a tiny gray kitten who was among several cats being showcased for adoption at the Ocean County Animal Facilities booth that was strategically placed near the front of the building as entrants came into the fair.
“I’m a nurse and I like to pick up information on new medications and I wanted to also pick up some information for my nephew about the animal shelter,” Brokin said. She was among the early arrivals at the event.
“We have two facilities, one in Jackson and another in Manahawkin,” said Sean Fitzgerald, a supervisor at Ocean County Animal Facilities.
“We currently have 29 cats and five dogs up for adoption and we are here to bring awareness of what we do at our shelters. We are also here to promote our half price adoption day at both our facilities,” Fitzgerald added.
“Lots of people are coming by our table already,” Assistant Manager Jackie Strawder said.
Ocean County Animal Facilities offers free rabies clinics by appointment on Wednesdays from 11-11:30 a.m. at both its locations. The Jackson facility can be reached at 732-657-8096 while the Manahawkin location can be reached by calling 609-978-0127.
“Many seniors benefit from the companionship of pets,” High said.
Jessica Nylen, who works as a health education representative for the county Health Department said that while this was the first health fair aimed at senior citizens, the department also offers a Latino Health Fair each September and a health fair for minorities in April. Both are held at the same location.
“We worked together as a team to put this on and we are very excited about the turnout. I know we will be doing this again in the future,” Field Representative Lauren Petraglia said.
Fellow Field Representative Kelly Larney said that the event which was held from 9 a.m. to noon had “75 to 100 people so far,” and that was before 9:30 a.m.
Peter Curatolo, chief of administrative services of the Ocean County Health Department could not have been more pleased with the event’s turnout or the variety of vendors/agencies who came out to make it a success.
“We have state offices represented here today. We also have information about diabetes, health care, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. We have buses pulling up with residents from all across the county. We are very eager to do this again next year,” Curatolo said.
Curatolo said his department recognizes the diverseness of Ocean County. “We want everyone from our 600,000-member community here in Ocean County to feel at home, to have a medical home, and that they have a sympathetic ear and to know that there is someone here to answer their questions about health.”
Jackson resident Karen Boyd learned about the event from reading The Jackson Times and was enjoying the event. “I’m waiting to have a free hearing test done. I picked up a lot of information and they had refreshments.”
Doug Steffy of Barnegat said, “many times you come to things like this and you learn about so many new medicines and how you can adopt a better healthier lifestyle.”
Abby Thompson, a Youth Prevention Manager for the DART Prevention Coalition which partners with RWJ Barnabas Health, was promoting what her agency does. DART is comprised of community leaders including law enforcement and government officials, educators, business owners, treatment providers, clergy and youth to focus on preventing underage drinking, prescription drug misuse, and illegal use of marijuana and tobacco.
Her message to seniors at the event was to bring awareness of prescription drug disposal methods for medicines that had expired. “We want seniors to be aware of the safe methods to dispose of their medicines to make sure they don’t end up in the hands of others who may misuse them,” Thompson said.
Health Department representative Claudia Ganopoulos provided attendees with information about Medicare and various senior care issues. For information call 732-929-2091. “We help with everything that touches seniors’ health,” Ganopoulos said.