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Health fair helps seniors find answers

DeKALB – Sycamore residents Jim and Loretta Hipple have taken time out of their schedule for the Senior Health Fair, but this year it was a little easier.

Jim's to-do list was done, and Loretta had decided that the windows on their house could wait a little longer to be washed. Jim had questions to ask and Loretta had friends to see, so they made the trip.

"Our bags are full," Loretta said Thursday, holding a sack full of pamphlets and freebies. "And we see people that we know either through church or the neighborhood. It's fun, and it's a good location."

Sponsored by State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), the Family Service Agency and the Voluntary Action Center, this year's Senior Health Fair was the largest yet. In total, 75 vendors were on hand at DeKalb High School to provide information, tips and free eye, ear and health screenings to area seniors.

Pritchard first sponsored the fair 10 years ago to promote communication among seniors and health care providers.

"I think getting the information right now, with everything changing in the health care field, is important," Pritchard said. "There are seniors with a lot of questions ... That's why we tried to and we got more providers this year than we've ever had."

Over the years Pritchard has recruited other local agencies involved with seniors to help grow the event. The Family Service Agency assisted with the registration process on Thursday and was there to promote its new fitness programs.

"We have two new programs, tai chi and enhanced fitness, which we do in partnership with the YMCA," FSA Executive Director Dave Miller said. "Enhanced Fitness is a exercise program for all abilities. Seniors can come and participate however they're able to."

Among the groups providing free screenings was Northern Illinois University's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, which was working in conjuction with the Regional Access and Mobilization Project to supply hearing-disabled seniors with free amplified phones.

"We dispense hearing aids over at the university, so it's kind of a way of just planting a seed for people who know they have an issue and trying to get them into the clinic," Diane Schecklong, a representative of the clinic, said.

Jim Hipple, however, was just happy to do some investigating.

"You can usually find an answer to most of your questions here," he said.

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