by Arielle Robinson
On Friday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Senior Citizen Council of Cobb County hosted its first free senior citizen’s expo at the Senior Wellness Center on Powder Springs Street in Marietta.
The expo featured about 25 vendors, who offered information about their low-cost or free services seniors may need. The expo was for people aged 55 and older.
Some of the services vendors provided information on included Medicare, jobs, housing and rental assistance, computer literacy, accessible phone services, and voting, among many other resources.
Raffles were drawn during the event as well.
Cobb Senior Services, which is not affiliated with the Senior Citizen Council of Cobb County, offered the latter organization the space for Friday’s event. The Senior Citizen Council is a nonprofit that works closely with Senior Services and hosts its monthly meetings in the Senior Services building.
Vera Kiser does event planning for the Senior Citizen Council and coordinated the expo.
“I got the idea from another expo that we went to in the spring,” Kiser said. “And I noticed that the things that were being displayed were not economical for this demographic—these are people with fixed incomes, and [vendors] are offering them these high-cost hair replacement systems and jewelry—it’s not a bazaar.
“[Seniors] need information that they could really use, they have to be able to afford it. So the stipulation [for Cobb’s expo] was that I’m only going to invite vendors who provide low or no-cost services to seniors.”
Kiser said vendors are not allowed to hard-sell products nor write checks or swipe anyone’s credit cards.
“This is just for information purposes—‘how do I get what you do for free?’” Kiser said.
When asked about multiple vendors present that helped seniors with Medicare and health insurance, Kiser said that they helped make sense of the oftentimes confusing process of enrollment.
“When you have to pick [health insurance] out yourself, it is really complicated, there’s part A, part B, part C, you can’t go to this doctor but you can go to that doctor, how much you have to pay out of pocket a month depends on your income and all that. A lot of that, to me, the average person does not understand that stuff,” Kiser said.
“But a health insurance professional can sit you down, and say ‘here are three plans based on what you told me your ailments were, and this is how they work’—and they do that for free,” she said. “Those are health insurance brokers, and they don’t represent one company, so that’s a huge resource.”
Kiser also discussed the phone services available.
Caption Call, which produces a high-tech telephone that assists people with hearing disabilities, was a vendor.
“People may hear the phone ring, but they can’t hear the voice, so the person’s voice will show up in captions on the screen so they can hear what the person is saying and have a more meaningful conversation,” Kiser said.
The expo is helpful, as it has many resources in one place, compared to having to complete long internet searches to find these resources, Kiser said.
“I know ‘expo’ is short for ‘exposition,’ but I like to call it short for ‘exposure,’ because most people just don’t know about this stuff,” she said. “You’re not just 54 one day and then turn 55 the next day and all of a sudden you know everything that’s offered to you at that age, you just don’t.”
Monica DeLancy’s We Thrive in Riverside Renters Association, which helps residents with rental and housing needs, was a vendor.
DeLancy talked with visitors about rental, mortgage, and light assistance. She also told visitors about renters’ rights.
DeLancy said that Friday, a 64-year-old came to her table inquiring about assistance because she is sleeping in her car.
“How is that? She needed help on how to apply for different things,” DeLancy said. “I’m glad I was here to say ‘hey, let me get you connected with some resources, because you at 64 should not be sleeping in your car.’ That hurt me.”
Another woman told DeLancy that while she is not sleeping in her car, she does not have a place of her own.
DeLancy said she was glad to have the opportunity to be at the expo and thanked the Senior Citizen Council and Kiser for a well-organized event.
“This is a win-win, and I’m glad to be here because I’m planning for my future as a senior citizen here in Cobb County,” DeLancy said. “Although I might not be of senior citizen age, I have to plan early.”
Demetra Coasey is a career navigator from Goodwill of North Georgia.
Coasey explained that she goes into the community to find clients for Goodwill’s skills training programs. A number of people signed up on the sheet Coasey had at her table.
“We offer a variety of training programs,” Coasey said. “These programs lead to certification, and once a client completes a program we help with job placement.”
Coasey said Goodwill has 14 different career centers across several counties, along with job fairs.
Kiser said she hopes the expo will be an annual event.
“People seem to receive it very well, the vendors are saying that they have gotten a lot of interest, they say they have been running out of stuff,” Kiser said.
Kiser said that senior citizens are often excluded from certain events and by certain businesses.
“This is an education for me too, about how much this demographic is neglected, which is crazy to me,” she said.
Kiser said that sometimes she will call certain businesses and ask about discounts for seniors but receive a negative response.
“I hope it won’t always be like that,” she said. “But one day [businesses will] wake up and they’ll see…how fast the group [of seniors in the United States] is growing. [Businesses have] stuff that they [seniors] need, and people can make money serving them and they just discount them.”
Teresa Valdez said the expo was very helpful. She mentioned the VoteRiders vendor table, which assists people who need to secure their voter ID.
“[VoteRiders] helped my sister because she misplaced her IDs and her birth certificate and her driver’s license expired,” Valdez said. “And then there’s a lot of things for jobs, I’m looking for a job also, and there’s a lot of information about that.”
Barbara Walker said she has been looking for a good health insurance policy. She said she heard of the expo through word of mouth.
“Right now is open season for insurance, and I’m looking to get a better policy, so I’ve been going to a lot of things that are for seniors,” Walker said.
Walker said Friday that she stumbled upon vendors with services that she did not go into the expo looking for, but since attending found to be a great help.
“The people that build homes for other people—they’re over there and they had a thing where they do repairs on seniors’ [homes],” Walker said. “I had been trying to get on their list and now I’m on their list.”
Walker said she would attend another event like this in the future.
“You never know what you might find out,” Walker said.
Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.