Who is a senior citizen? Is there an age bracket?
Delores Wood, manager of WRJW radio station and whose brainchild 16 years ago was the Senior Citizens’ Fair & Expo, says “it’s a state of mind.”
Said Wood, as she greeted attendees at the front door of the Picayune high school gym on Saturday, “I know people who are in their 20s and who should be here today, and I know people who are in their 80s and 90s who act like they are in their 20s.
“For instance, Aurilla Davis, our Senior of the Year, is 94, and she still gardens. Dusty called her and then turned to me and said, ‘Can you believe I had to wait to get her on the phone. She was in her garden pickin’ peas’,” added Wood.
It all began in 1996 in what was the old Chimney Square county office complex, which had housed a shopping center and been abandoned before being bought by the county. The old complex was used for county offices before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The current county offices complex on Goodyear only recently opened.
The Senior Fair and Expo began in the old complex with 20 vendors, said Wood, stopping for a short chat with the press during her chores at Saturday’s festivities, later moving to its current location in the high school gym.
The fair has grown to where there are now 67 vendors, and she said they could probably add another 30 if they had enough space. It helps, too, that the value of the door prizes hit $7,500 this year. WRJW kicked in half of that and vendors provided the rest. The Senior Fair and Expo even attracts charter buses from Southeast Louisiana, which show up at the event each year.
The event is more than the opportunity to win a nice door prize.
“It’s really about helping our senior citizens with their basic human needs,” said Wood.
She adds, “We looked at the demographics and it showed that the senior citizen population was exploding, but at that time, when we began this, nothing was specifically aimed at or geared for the senior citizens. We had promotions and productions aimed at all age groups then, but not for our seniors. That was what prompted us to do something.”
She said some have called it a “health fair.”
However, “We are far more than that. While we do offer health care information and services here, we cater to as many needs as a senior could have,” she said.
Booths ranged from government services, to health care providers, to regular retail services, and vendors are not looking for a hard sell to seniors, but to offer services that are basic to the needs of that group.
For instance, District Attorney Hal Kittrel had a booth, and so did Circuit Court Clerk Vickie Hariel and Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz. Coast Electric had a booth, as did the Pearl River County Republican Party.
At the end of the day, Davis was presented to the large crowd of about 2,000 as WRJW’s Senior of the Year. At 94, she is still active, participating in and winning a fishing contest at her Baptist church in Flat Top Community last year. She was born during World War I and came of age during the Great Depression in Hancock County where she grew up there.
Her late husband was Julius Davis. She still works a garden and conducts a Bible study in her home, said WRJW news director Dusty Dearman in presenting her a plaque and flowers.
Who is a senior citizen? Is there an age bracket?
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