2011 Conference on Aging

Aging Well in Mind, Body, and Spirit

A record crowd of 340 attended the Annual Beard Center on Aging Conference in May 2011. "We actually had to turn forty people away," said Denise Scruggs, director of the Beard Center and conference organizer.

Keynote speaker Rosemary Bakker, an environmental gerontologist and author of the AARP Guide to Revitalizing Your Home: Beautiful Living for the Second Half of Life, shared how the design of a home can optimize health, functionality, and well-being in later life.

"Why, sort of overnight, do our homes become so difficult to use?" she asked. The answer is that homes are built for people ages 20-45, as if we will never age or break a leg. But every seven seconds someone passes the age of 55, and one in five Americans has a disability.

Increasingly, homes need to be built with no-step entrances, access to upper levels, walk-in showers, abundant light, and no plush carpets.

Bakker has been a speaker on CBS, NBC, and PBS, and has been featured in AARP's "Modern Maturity."

Jenny Herrick, RN, offered insight into the value of humor in our lives. Author of You Laugh, I'll Drive, she shared her experiences as a member of Dr. Patch Adam's fun medicine delegation to China, as well as her experiences as a clown at Ground Zero.

"Life is too short to be so serious," she said, adding that smiling and laughter are physiologically good for you. Stress disappears with a genuine smile, while a belly laugh releases endorphins and massages the inner organs. Laughter is the best anti-depressant, mood enhancer, and social lubricant we have, she said.

In eighteen other sessions, participants also learned about developing and maintaining a sense of purpose at the end of life, how to communicate effectively with persons with dementia, and positive caregiving strategies.

The conference iwas presented by the Beard Center in partnership with the Centra Foundation, Centra Mental Health Services, and Centra Rehabilitation and Senior Care Services with support from the Senior News, Home Instead Senior Care, and Gentle Shepherd Hospice. Other sponsors included: Generation Solutions, Heritage Green, Hospice of Virginia, Runk & Pratt, Oakwood Health and Rehabilitation Center, Senior Independence, The Summit, and Valley View Retirement Community.

For full information on the conference, see the conference brochure.

Charlotte Arbogast, winner of the 2011 Heritage Green Gerontology Award. She is now a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing a career in gerontology.

Charlotte Arbogast, winner of the 2011 Heritage Green Gerontology Award.