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As Fairbanks ages, more services, institutions needed for people 50+

A health fair in Bethel in 2012.
Alaska Health Fair
A health fair in Bethel in 2012.

With Alaska’s senior population doubling and tripling in the next decade, agencies and local support services need to adjust. A summit this weekend at Pioneer Park will advance the discussion with workshops and presentations.

The summit and resource fair are free and will be at Pioneer Park 8a.m. - 6:00 p.m. on Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Alaska Health Fair will be conducting health screenings from 8 a.m. to noon both days. There is a First Friday reception at the Bear Gallery 5 p.m. Friday. The schedule is available on the Foundation Health Partners event website.

This summit was created by a collaborative group of Interior which is trying to get the community to recognize the challenges ahead.

“ A group that meets each month to help Fairbanks respond to this changing demographic. And in discussing what could we do to bring more attention to this? We came up with this summit.”

Carol Anthony is the Community Partnerships Manager for Foundation Health Partners, which is sponsoring the summit. There will be 30 workshops, classes and presentations.

“ Anybody and everybody who has any concern about what it's like to live in Fairbanks at 50 plus, that might be for yourself, for your family members. Maybe it's in conjunction with the type of work you do,” Anthony said.

She says although it is sponsored by health organizations, it will cover more than health issues. Presenters will cover financial planning, legal advice, housing transitions, logistics and transportation. Anthony says at least one presentation will cover the shift in demographics as Alaska has more older people.

“ A Friday evening workshop at 4:45 p.m. with Jordan Henry; and he cites quite a few of the statistics that are driving the Fairbanks area and the statewide demographic shift, and how to be planful about that both individually and as a community,” Anthony said.

Anthony says Fairbanks and Alaska’s Interior are not well prepared with institutions and services for people over 50 years old. She says the summit presentations are about thinking ahead: everything from art and music in dementia care, how Alaska hibernation science is affecting drug research, access to legals trusts, Medicaid waivers and technology, and how to avoid sexually transmitted infections.

“ You know, I, I like to think we busted the myth that people don't like to talk about getting older. We do. And we just need some of the encouragement to collect up the kind of information that makes a difference” Anthony said.