The county will host its 19th annual 50+EXPO on Friday at Wilde Lake High School, featuring information and sessions on issues including safety and emergency preparedness.
Hosted by the Department of Community Resources and Services' Office on Aging and Independence, the event is expected to draw more than 3,500 people and will include more than 160 vendors and exhibitors. This year's theme focuses on preparedness, information and education.
Courtney Barkley, the event coordinator in the county's Office on Aging, said one of the new highlights of this year's expo is a multi-sensory simulation experience that gives users a glimpse into what it is like to live with dementia. The simulation gives a "tour" as Barkley described it, of how dementia affects a person's sensory abilities, including having muffled hearing, impaired vision and poor memory.
"By the end of the tour you really have a greater understanding and compassion for folks who are living with dementia," said Department of Community Resources communication officer Kim Henry. "The point of the tour is to spread that understanding."
Henry said that this will be her 10th year working with the expo, and that over the years she has seen the crowd grow more diverse, as well as increasingly younger as more baby boomers age. She said the expo provides a chance for residents to learn about what services and resources are available to them as they grow older, before they actually need to use them.
"The expo is really great opportunity to have all of this under one roof in one day," Henry said.
The county will also offer free flu vaccines and health screenings to attendees at the onsite health fair.
Friday's event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $1, and free parking and shuttle transportation will be offered from the lower level Sears parking lot at the Mall in Columbia.