Assemblywoman Sandy Galef Holds Senior Forum

Experts render a variety of advice

By William Benjamin

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef held her Senior Forum 2015 on July 16 at the Cortlandt Town Hall in Cortlandt Manor. Senior citizens packed the old school gym to hear a panel of speakers, eat bagels and socialize.

Galef puts on the Senior Forum every year to impart information on topics related to seniors. “We work with senior groups, they cosponsor this, and try to get ideas from them as to what needs to be covered,” said Galef. Those ideas are not only relevant to seniors, however. In the past, they have covered topics such as tourism, libraries and book clubs, as well as bleaker subjects.

Galef at the forum (photo provided)

Galef at the forum (photo provided)

An update from Albany by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and a tale from Hudson Valley storyteller Jonathon Kruk highlighted the 9 a.m. to noon event along with a panel on an array of topics.

This year’s panel presented information on living wills, fraud, organ donation, brain health, and health care technology.

“How many of you think that you may die someday?” said David C. Leven, executive director of End of Life Choices New York. Everyone raised his or her hand. It was a sharp change in mood from Kruk’s lighthearted story about Abe Lincoln, the Hudson Valley and army wives, though certainly as engaging.

Leven encouraged everyone to prepare for a happy death after a happy life. He spoke of the importance of a drawing up a living will, talking with a physician about end-of-life medical care, and sitting down with one’s children to discuss the inevitable end. “At 97-years-old and without consciousness, would you want to be kept alive by a ventilator?”

Next, Burton Greenberg of Caregiver Insights Foundation presented an invention that will encrypt health care information in a chip that can be worn as a bracelet and read by emergency health care professionals. It is designed to quickly provide information on how individuals wish to be treated in case a patient is unable to communicate his or her desires. The chip will be read by a mobile application and will store a person’s living will, blood type, allergens and other critical information. He asked for seniors at the forum to test out the prototype.

Yolanda Robinson, Westchester County regional director from the state comptroller’s office, reminded people that there could be some unclaimed funds waiting to be disbursed to them through the state.

Organ recipient and volunteer Roxanne Watson shared her story of how she managed to be present at the forum. She told the room how she lay in bed for nearly 200 days, waiting for a new heart. She reaffirmed that anyone can and should be an organ donor, that one body can save up to eight lives and help 40 more, and that age is not a restriction.

Dr. Paul Lleva, a neurologist at Phelps Memorial Hospital, shared how to keep the brain strong, fight off dementia and recognize the signs. Leaving the kettle on while away is not a sign of dementia. However, preparing a meal and forgetting to serve it raises some flags. Forgetting an acquaintance’s name — no. Forgetting a family member’s name — yes. He suggested a Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables. He emphasized that keeping active, physically, mentally and socially, is beneficial for the brain.

Everyone perked up when Gary Brown, the assistant attorney general, took the microphone. He told the group about various scams and what to look out for. He asked the audience to watch out for the Grandchild Scam, which lures elders into wiring money to people posing as grandchildren in distress in a foreign country. He said that new technology allows con artists to hack caller ID names to display different names when they call. Most importantly, he stressed that one should never give a Social Security number out over the phone and to only use a credit card number when one originates the call.

Making a living will, signing up to be an organ donor, keeping your brain strong, and watching out for fraud — that is good advice for everyone.

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