Medicare group hosts wellness fair

Jan. 19—VALDOSTA — While the Valdosta Mall is usually bustling with shoppers most Saturdays, the shopping complex became a sprawling resource hub for seniors last weekend thanks to a local Medicare group.

Senior Medicare Patrol, a program that assists Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers to prevent, detect and report health care fraud, errors and abuse through outreach, counseling and education, hosted its first Senior Health and Wellness Fair earlier this month.

According to event organizers, the project is supported by grants from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.

Gayla Yochum, community outreach specialist for SMP South Georgia, said she felt as though she achieved the fair's goal of educating seniors about local resources.

"We had such a great turnout today and I've heard nothing but good things about just how many services there are out there for them. We work to educate and make sure our seniors know not only about Medicare fraud but things that will make their lives easier and happier, housing information and personal care services," she said.

Vendors included Habitat for Humanity, Living Bridges Ministries, LAMP, American Dream Realty, Lowndes Health Department, Valdosta State University's Learning in Retirement, Music Funeral Home, Valdosta Fire Department, PUPS, CaptionCall, Georgia State Health Insurance Assistance Program, The Alzheimer's Association and Crunch Gym.

Seniors also got to hear live music while visiting each booth, courtesy of local act Naturally Southern.

Jackie Berrian was one of the seniors who gave the fair a glowing review, with her standout booth being CaptionCall, a captioning service and telephone that allows you to hear and read what the other person is saying so you can better understand the conversation.

"I really enjoyed it. The people are real friendly and I learned a lot. The most eye opening one for me was the phone caption company. I had no idea you can actually call someone and actually read what they say at the same time. Didn't know they opened that to seniors.

"I also really like Music Funeral Services and how much information they were giving out. They were real helpful, too," she said.

Due to the success of the event, Yochum said she feels confident about turning it into an annual expo.

"I think we will make it an even bigger event next year but I'm happy we gave the local seniors a great showing today," she said.

For more information on Medicare and general resources for seniors, contact Yochum at (877) 272-8720.