A senior fair took over downtown Napa on Sunday, but not just any old senior fair.
The inaugural Celebrating Seniors event took place Sunday afternoon in Veterans Memorial Park and the adjacent section of Main Street. It was intended to provide not only access to resources for the city’s older population, but also information on ways to get out of the house and get active.
“So many people have this stereotype that getting old is getting frail and sick and becoming disabled,” said event chairwoman Yvonne Baginski. “There’s a lot of people that are healthy and with it. We decided to have an event that would celebrate that aspect of it, making seniors more visible in Napa and breaking people’s stereotype.”
Mayor Jill Techel led attendees, some of whom were bused in from as far as Calistoga, in games “they used to play,” like yo-yo, paddleboard and hula hoop. She gave winners “recycled” medals that were given to her from the friend of a now-deceased former participant in the Senior Olympics.
“I just like to have a good time and I thought, ‘Why not see if we could get a whole bunch of seniors to have a good time and be happy to be the age you are?’” said event visionary Betty Rhodes, as she watched the festivities and waved a plastic hand clapper. “At my age, I know you have to fight a little harder to stay active and it’s very important to look on the positive side, get out in the community, do volunteer work, stay active, stay with people, look at the positive side of getting older, not the negative.”
Master of ceremonies Peter Mott, a city councilman, awarded raffle prizes each hour to the seniors in attendance and made way for a number of music and entertainment acts.
“Seniors are a big part of our population and this is to encourage them to be active and enjoy their senior years,” Mott said, adding that event organizers had planned for 1,000 attendees and he was confident that target would be met. “We’ve got a perfect day, weather-wise, and have a number of organizations that have been generous enough to sponsor us and get this going.”
About 34 percent of Napa’s population is age 60 and older, Mott said. In addition to the more upbeat aspects of the five-hour festival, there were also resource booths available to connect seniors with everything from clubs to health care to assisted living to medical marijuana. Attendees could even get a flu shot and massage.
Kathy Kirkland, a palliative care nurse at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, provided information on a class she teaches, called “Later Life Planning.”
“We cover the ‘what-ifs’ of life,” she said. “What if you break your hip? What if you have a stroke? The people who plan do fairly well. The people who don’t plan, they’re the ones who, when something happens, it can be devastating to their life.”
Kirkland said it’s important to for baby boomers to start thinking about such questions and said a class in which a third party asks the questions can help, making it easier to broach tough topics.
Morris Curry, a program coordinator for the American Canyon Senior Multi-Use Center, said seniors offer invaluable wealth to communities and should be celebrated.
“This is actually the prime of life, and what we’re doing is showing seniors that you still have value,” Curry said. “We have some active seniors. Even the ones who may be limited in mobility, they still have the opportunity to be of value.”