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Conference seeks to dispel myths of aging

September 30, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Living a long life doesn't mean you'll end up sick and in a nursing home, according to Regina Mayolo of the West Virginia University Center on Aging.

But that's one of many negative stereotypes of aging that persist despite statistics to the contrary, said Mayolo, coordinator of community service.

"Ninety-five percent of us never see a nursing home," she said.

The frightening image goes hand in hand with the myth that aging means inactivity - dispelled by the fact that roughly 60 percent of all volunteers are healthy older adults, Mayolo said.

The Center on Aging is hoping to stamp out those stereotypes while focusing on opportunities for the state's growing aging population during its two-day conference at the Holiday Inn Martinsburg, she said.

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The conference - drawing more than 150 people - began Wednesday afternoon and will continue today, Mayolo said.

West Virginia Gov. Cecil H. Underwood, the keynote speaker and an appropriate "poster child" for the center, is scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. today, she said.

"With Cecil Underwood we have somebody who, from a personal standpoint, knows what we're trying to do," Mayolo said.

An annual event for the past three years, the West Virginia Conference on Aging has been held in different parts of the state, Mayolo said.

This year's theme, "Images of Aging," breaks down into four main areas: "Healthy Aging," "Transitions from Independence to Dependence," "Art and Lifestyles," and "Aging: The Final Frontier."

The target audience includes people from agencies that deal with older clients and businesses and agencies that have found a market in aging, like hospitals, she said.

Dorothy Kilmer, activity assistant at Berkeley Senior Services, was representing the center's adult day-care program at the conference.

Kilmer said she was particularly interested in the topics dealing with transitions from independence to dependence, which she regularly sees people going though.

The changes are difficult to deal with, especially when someone has to go into a nursing home, she said.

"It's a big transition for families and the people going in," Kilmer said.

Cathy McConnell, a lawyer with North Central West Virginia Legal Aid in Morgantown, W.Va., said she came to learn what resources are available for her clients, all ages 60 and older.

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