The free fair, held at the Alabama School for the Deaf’s Gilchrist Room in the student center, connected more than 100 senior citizens with more than 40 vendors offering everything from information regarding home care services to free health screenings.
“This is the second time I’ve been to the fair,” said Ann Sayers, a retired claims examiner and Sylacauga native. “I think I visited every booth today. It’s good to have these people here providing us with helpful information.”
More than 20 volunteers gave their time assisting vendors, escorting seniors and bridging the communication gap by serving as interpreters for those who needed assistance.
“Our program serves more than 10,000 seniors across the state of Alabama each year,” said Dr. Horace Patterson, director of AIDB’s senior services department. “We bring vendors and service provides together with seniors to make them aware of the services available to help improve their quality of life.”
Though seniors made up the majority of the crowd, a smattering of youth also attended the fair.
“The health fair is an intergenerational program,” Patterson said. “We put students in contact with seniors and seniors in contact with students in hopes that our young people will gain wisdom from interacting with the seniors.
“Also, the seniors will feel better about themselves as they provide knowledge and wisdom to the students. It’s a reminder to them that both generations need other and there are mutual benefits that come from that interaction.”
After nearly an hour of time to browse the vendor’s booths, the crowd gathered near the stage for a musical presentation featuring Alabama School for the Blind’s Malia Thibado, who sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
A group of ASB preschool and kindergarten students led the pledge of allegiance and sang a few children’s songs before special guest speaker John Croyle, former University of Alabama defensive end who played for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, addressed the audience.
Croyle shared several anecdotes from his life during his speech, each sentence often punctuated with laughter from the audience.
“Whether you’re the youngest child in this room or the oldest person in this room, don’t hide under the stairs,” Croyle said. “There’s somebody looking for you. There’s someone that God wants you to help.”
After Croyle’s speech, Tabitha Royal, coordinator for AIDB’s senior services department, conducted a drawing for door prizes acquired by vendor and donations, while volunteers served hot dogs, chips and beverages to the group.
“Our senior population today is composed of an awful lot of resilient people who’ve seen the Great Depression, the Vietnam War and all kinds of changes,” Patterson said. “They adjusted and made contributions to our society. We do not believe their role as contributors to society has passed.”
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