Research scholar will give keynote at conference followed by senior expo

Event focuses on age-friendly city

A leading national expert on senior centers will present his view of a changing future for older residents, while highlighting ways the Columbus area can become more age-friendly.

Manoj Pardasani is a faculty research scholar at the Ravazzin Center on Aging and associate professor at the Fordham University graduate school of social service in New York City. He will be the keynote speaker of the third annual Seek 2017 conference Aug. 24 at Mill Race Center in Columbus, followed by a free senior expo Aug. 25.

More than 100 tickets have been sold to the event that can seat 250, according to organizers. People can register until the morning of the gathering.

The conferences are just one tool that the center and the self-contained Pitman Institute for Aging Well uses to educate local residents and visitors about healthy aging while remaining involved in the community.

Columbus resident Bob Pitman, the namesake of the institute who was a leader in the national senior community for years, focused on such issues while he was executive director of Mill Race Center until his December 2014 retirement.

The topics are especially important since the 50-plus population segment is by far the county’s largest demographic at nearly 35 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, and also the fastest-growing segment.

The conference’s topics, which include an introduction to the center’s program that it labels Total Brian Health, apparently strike a nerve with local residents. For instance, the latest Total Brain Health series class drew substantial interest — and a waiting list of 50 people, said Beth Parkhurst, the center’s community outreach coordinator.

“This is a way to get the community engaged in a conversation about advancing the idea of an age-friendly community, and what that means,” Parkhurst said. “It also will highlight what initiatives we can establish to move forward (toward that).”

Pardasani spoke at YES Cinema as part of the inaugural Seek Conference in 2015, which was a national event presented with the National Council on Aging. He last visited Columbus in June.

He met with five local focus groups, ranging from city officials to nonprofit leaders, in order to assess how age-friendly the area is. His speech will include his findings and thoughts.

One other upcoming activity is linked to the Seek Conference 2017. Street chalk artist and illustrator David Zinn of Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be in Columbus Aug. 16 to 19, when he will be creating whimsical, three-dimensional-looking figures throughout the city as “a fun way to help the community become aware of the conference.”

Some of his figures, including a trademark character known as Sluggo, will be permanent artistic additions to the city. His appearance also is linked to a focus on a city’s walkability, since public art is considered an enhancement or attractions for pedestrians.

At a glance

What: Seek Conference 2017, featuring presentations on making the local community more age-friendly, total brain health, and other topics.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 24. Breakfast at 9 a.m. A free 35-vendor expo especially aimed at the 50-plus set will follow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 25.

Where: Both events are at Mill Race Center, 900 Lindsey St. in Columbus.

Cost: Full conference is $55 for center members and $65 for non-members. Lunch and keynote speaker cost is $30 for center members and $35 for non-members. Aug. 25 expo is free.

Information and tickets: millracecenter.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.