EL CENTRO – Katrina and the Waves’ 1985 hit song “Walking on Sunshine” seeped out from the open doors of the Community Center where the El Centro Community Senior Club and over 100 of their closest friends and supporters convened on Friday, May 19, in El Centro.

Vendors lined all four walls sparing only the stage and podium of the Community Center, while elderly attendees visited each one by one to exchange information, resources, and even hugs in pursuit of a better quality of life. Representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association, Imperial Valley Transit, Imperial Valley Food Bank, Pioneers Memorial Hospital, El Centro Regional Medical Center, and more attended to promote their lifesaving resources to one of the elderly.

Government food assistance provider CalFresh had an eye-catching display table that demonstrated examples of proper nutrition and portion sizes, while institutions like the Imperial Irrigation District appealed to attendees via prizes won by playing an oversized bingo game.

Margaret Mireles, an elderly woman who attended by invitation from a friend in the Senior Club, walked away from the IID booth with a cane in one hand and a prize in the other. She was all smiles as she explained that this was her second win so far.

“This is my second prize today! One raffle and now this,” said the elated senior of her newly acquired Energy Efficiency Kit. 

Mireles said she won a special back pillow earlier and she’s looking forward to using it. For her, the best part of the day has been seeing all the “senior power” surround her.

“I’m enjoying myself with the music and all the prizes, and soon the food will be coming,” she said. 

The meals consisted of chili beans, carrots, and mandarins, and were prepacked by the Meals on Wheels Congregate Program at their main location in El Centro. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego generously provided free meals through their Senior Nutrition Program for all attendees above the age of 60 and were equally well-received. 

“I think this is a great opportunity for seniors,” Catholic Charities case manager Marisol Enriquez said. “They go out and about and sometimes they don’t realize there are a lot of resources out there for them.”

As the elderly sat comfortably at large roundtables laughing and conversing, bright green memorial bows pinned to button-ups and blouses reminded attendees that maintaining good mental health is also essential to achieving the highest quality of life.

Terri Gonzales of Imperial County Behavioral Health Services said her job at the Senior Health Fair was to promote awareness of the organization’s resources available to the elderly always, but especially during Mental Health Awareness Month, which is in May.

Common issues within the elderly community extend beyond general healthcare and often into lifestyle habits, such as regularly socializing and proactively protecting oneself from offenses such as elder abuse. Information from a wide range of resources proved to be invaluable to many in the elderly community purely by the way participants were collected and presented at a single location on a specified day.

Judy Brown and Susie Garcia of Access to Independence – a nonprofit which offers housing assistance, computer classes, and programs for those with vision problems – were quick to offer their advocacy services to anyone in need.

“If they need a magnifier or a talking device, a specialized keyboard, we can help them attain that,” Brown said.

Brown said that often times remedying the day-to-day challenges that can make a world of difference for seniors.

The event also saw politicians and health care workers come out to show their support, such as El Centro Mayor Martha Cardenas-Singh and Dr. Tien Tan Vo, who both spoke during the event. A highlight for some was the Cardio Drum presentation that got hearts pumping and positivity flowing shortly after.

Letty Taylor, chair of the event, closed by extending her gratitude to all the service providers, speakers, and attendees who collaborated in order to make the day a success.

Overall, the health fair was “well-attended and well-organized” said John Hernandez, while those sat near him checked their tickets for winning numbers during the final raffle.

As the vibrant senior community continues its pursuit of longer, healthier lives no matter the age, perhaps getting started simply comes down to learning something new.

“My wife is almost 80 and her blood pressure was better than mine!” Hernandez laughed.

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