Annual Elders Day Conference keeps growing with larger attendance
Gila River Indian News
The Community Services Department and the Elderly Services Program presented the 3rd Annual Elders Day Conference, held on Friday, May 24 at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.
The goal for the conference is to provide education, awareness, and prevention with elders in the Community. Regina Antone-Smith, Deputy Director of Community Services Department says the conference originally started out as place for elders to receive information. “We were able to all come together and express concerns of what we wanted to find out,” said Antone-Smith.
The first Elders Conference brought in 200 elders but those numbers have since grown with 400 elders registered this year. Volunteers and caretakers attend to help and participate as well.
The conference began with a breakfast as elders heard remarks from Lt. Gov. Robert Stone, Miss Gila River and Jr. Miss Gila River before breaking into workshops. Plenty of informational booths were available. During lunch, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis shared remarks before a performance by Cody Blackbird, award-winning Native American flutist.
Mary Weston is the Elderly Services Program Coordinator and this is her second time coordinating the event. “We didn’t offer it last year, we skipped a year so we can change it to be held in spring,” said Weston about the conference previously being held in the fall which is when Elders Day is presented. “We didn’t want to do them too close.”
“Empowering Elders through Mind, Body and Spirit” was the theme this year, focusing on overall health and wellbeing.
Programs such as Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Tribal Health Department, Huhugam Heritage Center, Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and Tribal Recreation & Wellness provided workshops. Workshop topics included education on healthy nutrition, exercise, brain health, traditional songs, life planning, scams and identity theft.
“I would have liked to go to all of them. There’s a lot of information that we need. It was really helpful,” said Helen Ramirez from District 2 about the workshops provided for the event. “You get to see all the elders from different districts, your old friends, old school mates that I hadn’t seen for years.” Ramirez is retired from work and usually just stays home but says she enjoys going out to the different elder events.