Aging into seniorhood can be difficult, but Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service tries to lighten the load a bit by hosting an annual Vital Aging Fair.
This year the fair will be held Oct. 21, and it is free to the public.
“I thought of the idea when I first started with Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service,” said Maryellen Saenger.
Saenger is in charge of working on the Aging in Place initiative for SFCS. That initiative provides services for seniors living in the village, even after their kids are grown.
“They’re still contributing to the property tax base,” Saenger said. “We need to give back to them. I think this is a way the village gives back.”
Part of that initiative includes the vital aging fair, now in its fourth year, which is a way to bring resources to the older population. Saenger said a strong relationship with the library and recreation department helped make the fair possible.
“We’re all working on the same mission which is to serve the local community,” she said.
The fair was first held in the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Public Library on Olmsted Road. Since the library renovation project began last year, the fair has to be held in different locations; last year it took place at Scarsdale Woman’s Club, and this year the Scarsdale Congregational Church will host the event.
Westchester County holds a fair at the county center similar to the one in Scarsdale, and while Saenger said the county does a great job with the seniors, she said they might not be able to get to the county center easily.
“The idea was to host a mini fair in our own backyard,” she said.
The fair plays host to an assortment of providers of services for seniors and allows them to get free consultations from home health agencies, health experts, nutritionists, financial planners and others who help seniors age in place more securely.
The fair began with 15 vendors and, four years later, it’s doubled in size.
Some vendors are local businesses, but because of Saenger’s involvement with professional organizations, she has been able to bring in other businesses.
“The number of years I’ve been doing this allowed me to build up a Rolodex of who the major players are,” she said.
A survey Saenger encourages people to fill out at the fair helps her gauge their needs and gives her ideas for what type of vendors to add and which ones to invite again the following year.
This fair is geared not only to seniors, but also to those who are eager to help a friend or family member.
Inclement weather typically deters seniors from venturing out to the fair, according to Saenger, and although the weather was bad on the day of the fair last year, Saenger said the event had a “decent turnout” of about 50 people. This year, however, she said she hopes that number will double.
The event takes a lot of planning, communication and coordination, which starts with the selection of a site several months in advance, Saenger said. Over the summer, she said she reaches out to vendors, meets with new vendors and sends out save the date notices.
“There’s a lot of coordination, and I make sure I have a good assortment and a good variety for the seniors,” Saenger said.
Through the survey, participants share ideas for new events or changes in the fair. One suggestion was to find a way to have some vendors participate in a session to talk about their businesses. Though Saenger couldn’t make that work at the fair itself, she was able to offer a new series of workshops at the Girl Scout House in Scarsdale. There, Saenger invites guest speakers on a monthly basis to talk about specific topics, like nutrition, pain management, protecting a financial nest egg and stress management to lower depression.
Saenger handles the majority of the work that goes into the fair but gets help with some of the smaller tasks, such as making and producing flyers and publicizing the event in the recreation department’s newsletter.
With an array of vendors serving seniors and families under the same roof at the same time, it makes it easier to gather important information, Saenger said. “I get calls from adult children about their parent, not sure what to do,” she said. “All those questions someone might have about aging in place could be answered by coming to this fair. There will be a financial planner, an estate trust attorney, someone talking about Medicaid, someone giving free medical advice. Any question [someone] may have about the aging process, these experts are on hand under one roof in one place covering all aspects.”