McMinn Senior Activity Center has created a new program and expanded an expo in order to better help seniors and caregivers.

The new program, Southeast Tennessee Senior Advocates group, was founded by the McMinn Senior Activity Center as a resource group so that people can exchange information that can benefit seniors and their loved ones.

The first meeting will be at the Center on Sept. 13 at noon, and will serve as a meet and greet, as well as a planning session. At that initial meeting, attendees will determine their goals, the frequency that they would like to meet, and coordinate the best times to have future meetings.

According to Executive Director Tina South, anyone who has professional experience working with seniors “in any way, shape, or form” is encouraged to attend and exhange information to help seniors in the community.

South, who has been the executive director for three years, gave an example of a grant which can help seniors receive $1,500 for their medication and stated that this information is not well-known, so many seniors are not benefiting from this aid who could really use it.

She also spoke about the fact that many seniors have admitted that they either skip their medication daily or meals, because they cannot afford to do both.

She emphasized how crucial exchanging information is for situations like these and, likewise, validated the vital need of the Southeast Tennessee Senior Advocates (SETSA) program.

“There’s money that a senior could have used if we had known about it and the only way to know about it is to exchange information,” said South. “Really, it’s an information exchange.”

South explained the importance of the community coming together to help seniors.

“We should all be working together for that senior that doesn’t have anyone working for them — which is a vast majority of our seniors. A lot of them are just lost out there without a whole lot of help or advocacy,” she said.

Important information will also be posted on the Center’s specific Facebook group page called “Southeast Tennessee Senior Advocates”, as well as McMinn Senior Activity Center’s Facebook page, according to South.

The SETSA program was inspired by the needs that the Senior Center sees from seniors on a daily basis. Some of these needs, according to South, include questions about Meals on Wheels, dietary issues, pharmacy issues, legal questions, and even literacy questions.

The SETSA program seeks to provide the information to anyone that has a question or concern about senior care.

“This is something we have been throwing around this idea for the last couple of years, because we see the need for it everyday,” said South. “It’s very exciting. It’s the goal of our mission to help that senior age successfully and having the right tools to age successfully … we’re looking to have the right tools in our toolbox to really help the seniors and more seniors in the community. We’re not reaching nearly the ones that we need.”

South discussed a recent statistic which says that about 50 percent of people ages 40 through 60 are taking care of a senior relative.

“Sometimes things move gradually, and sometimes they don’t,” said South. After referencing multiple medical emergencies that could occur, she said, “All of a sudden, you need a lot of help, a lot of information, and you don’t know where to go to get it.”

She also explained that the SETSA program is intended to provide accurate information to clear up “a lot of misinformation.”

However, through SETSA, South said,“Hopefully, if we can get the information in your hand … that takes some of that stress off of trying to find those things and trying to guess what the right thing is for your family member.”

Along with the program, South noted that the McMinn Senior Activity Center is working on applying for a grant in order to try to bring in another staff member specifically dedicated to serve SETSA.

“We’re hoping we can get that grant, so that we can get some funding to hire someone to truly be that advocate for the senior, the senior’s family, or someone else in the community that needs the information,” she said.

Additionally, the McMinn Senior Activity Center will host a free Active Aging Senior Expo on Oct. 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. While the expo is free, lunch will be provided by Starr Regional Medical Center, and those interested in eating lunch should pick up a ticket for the event beginning Oct. 1.

A variety of information, resources, and services will be provided at the Aging Senior Expo. Walgreens will be there offering a flu and shingle shot clinic. Breakout sessions will offer legal aid, McMinn County Veterans Service Officer Susan Peglow will supply information for veterans, and the state health insurance program will be present.

Hearing screenings, financial planning representatives, and other financial aid representatives will all be present.

Dr. Bob Overholt of the “Dr. Bob Show” will be the guest speaker for the Aging Senior Expo.

South explained that the Center has done a health expo for about 15 years, but they expanded the event this year to offer additional services.

“We’re really excited. Our goal is to have 200 people walk through the door that day,” said South. “If nothing else, even if people can come by on their lunch, get that information, or hear Dr. Bob speak, or if not just come in early or as we’re closing and get that information.”

“There’s going to be a lot of new things coming out for seniors to benefit them, or their families or caregivers,” she said. “This is something that you do not want to miss.”

The McMinn Senior Activity Center hopes to have 30 vendors total and still has room for about 10 more. Vendors should complete their applications by Sept. 21.

Vendor applications can be completed on their website online at http://www.mcminnseniors.com

For additional questions about the expo or vendor process, contact Director of Development Diane Hutsell at 423-745-6830 or by email at msacdevelopment@gmail.com

A United Way of McMinn and Meigs Counties Partner Agency, the McMinn Senior Activity Center has served seniors in the community for 20 years.

For more information about how you can help a senior or the senior center, call (423)745-6830, visit their website, or visit them in Athens at 205 McMinn Avenue.

Email: ashley.copeland@ dailypostathenian.com

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