Talks bring awareness to Clark County seniors every month

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The Clark County Commission on Aging has hosted educational talks for several years, but once the pandemic hit, the agency took a different approach.

Typically, the commission would bring in speakers to talk for about an hour, Commissioner Tanya Stewart said. When the series went to a virtual format, the county thought it’d be beneficial to host the workshops as “fireside chats.” The new format allows participants to ask questions of the speakers.

This year’s series focuses on the road to recovery from COVID-19, specifically for people ages 65 and older, Stewart said. Each month, the group learns more about a different topic, like caring for a serious illness or learning technology skills.

The agency is preparing for the next guests in July because the commission holds an annual retreat in June. Neal Barnard, author and clinical researcher, will join Suzanne Washington, CEO of Meals on Wheels People, to discuss using food as a form of medicine.

Washington will speak about ways seniors can sign up for Meals on Wheels, while Barnard will discuss the importance of food, Stewart said.

The series kicked off in March with an overview of preparing for the road to recovery from COVID-19. She said the two experts leading the chat were Melissa Connon, gerontology associate professor at Western Oregon University, and regional ombudsman Neil Degerstedt.

The speakers brainstormed ways to shorten the internet divide between younger and older adults, as well as decrease the spread of misinformation about the pandemic, Stewart said.

During last month’s chat, meeting participants learned about the relationship between serious illness and those who care for people living with an illness.

“We think about personal protective equipment, but we don’t talk about the emotional PPE that many of our clinicians need,” Stewart said.

Peggy Maguire, Cambia Health Foundation president, and Gregg Vandekieft, Palliative Practice Group medical director, spoke about recognizing the toll clinicians and caregivers who serve people every day experience, she said.

“It takes seeing the whole person as well as a whole community approach to care for folks who are living with a serious illness,” Stewart said.

In August, attendees will hear from Gillian Feldmeth, value-based strategy and evaluation director for NowPow and a Washington State Health Care Authority representative. The discussion will include how a person’s occupation, hobbies and social life affects their health.

Participants can attend every third Wednesday each month at 4:30 p.m. via Webex. For more meeting details, visit clark.wa.gov/community-planning/covid-19-road-recovery-discus
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