History of the Annual Seniors Conference
This year we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Southern Utah Seniors Conference. The conference has evolved over the last 20 years so we thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane and explore the changes we’ve made over the last 20 years. In 2002 we planned the first seniors conference with the assistance of our friends at the Alzheimer’s Association.
The first conference was “The ABC’S of Dementia” Dr. Carrie Hill Steckl was the primary speaker. The meeting was held in St. George at Sterling Court assisted living, and attendance was disappointing. The next year, we thought we would try the Cedar City library for the second attempt, and we were supported by all of the Senior Centers in Five County area, they each sent buses full of seniors. We were busting at the seams. The room could seat 100 and we had 112 attended I remember standing at an exit door listening and thinking wow. The majority of the participants were from Kane, Garfield, and Beaver Counties. The next year the Heritage Center in Cedar City was opened, and we moved the conference there and have remained for the last 18 years (except for two fully virtual conferences).
The purpose of the conference is twofold, to bring the community together and to provide resources to allow an individual to age in place. We try to pick topics that will interest seniors, caregivers, and professionals. The goal is to open communication and through knowledge improves independence. We conduct a yearly survey and have used that to plan future conferences.
The first conferences were planned by the Cedar City Area Agency on Aging staff, with the Cedar City Senior Center providing the meals. The Keynotes have been local doctors, aging experts, and Alzheimer’s Specialists, but my favorite was Attorney Paul Greenwood from San Diego County. His primary position was to prosecute Elder Abuse; he taught Seniors to S.K.I. Spend Kids Inheritance. As an agency we have shared his wisdom with many.
The conference has become a labor of love. We have had an increased turnout each year, many repeat (offenders) participants. And we have enjoyed every minute, except the pandemic, but even then, we made virtual conferences work. Amy Brinkerhoff took the lead on adopting technology and put us in the 21st Century.
Each year we come up with a theme, and somehow, it organically comes together. We knew this year was the 20th Anniversary, at the end of a Pandemic, and we are having it on May 20th and the idea of the “Roaring 20’s” came to life. As we started arranging speakers a common thread came up and that was making connections, from connecting to siblings, to children and grandchildren and using connections to stay safe, happy, and healthy.
Amy Brinkerhoff has worked for the Five County Association of Governments for almost ten years. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 2008 with a degree in Sociology. Amy has been a SHIP counselor since her first week at Five County and now serves as Coordinator for the SHIP and SMP programs, where she offers one-on-one Medicare Counseling and teaches classes on Medicare topics and Fraud prevention.