Image - Senior Fair
From left, Michele Epstein talks with Barry Lifland and Leslie O'Brien during Friday's Senior Living Fair at Half Moon Bay's senior center. The fair brought vendors and speakers to connect with seniors looking for tips and products designed for them. Kyle Ludowitz/Review

Jim Blanchard is easing gently into his retirement. When the 64-year-old El Granadan came to the Senior Living Fair last Friday, he was eager to learn more about life on the Coastside as a senior resident. Earlier that morning, he had attended a panel on Village of the Coastside — a local chapter of the national resource that provides services and connections to help seniors navigate the pitfalls and promises of aging.  

But while Blanchard was committed to exploring his new community close to home, he had slightly more cosmic concerns on his mind as well. 

“I (want to) find something local and tap into that,” he said during a panel on planning for retirement. “But how do you find a purpose and meaning in your life?”

“Sometimes you stumble upon it,” said Jackie Siminitus, a senior peer counselor at Peninsula Family Service, who spoke fondly of her experiences with volunteerism after retirement. “I just know that you have to stay active. ... You need to find some good exercises that make sense (for you).” 

The panel that Blanchard attended was just one in a buffet of offerings at last week’s fourth annual Senior Living Fair. Presented by the Half Moon Bay Review and Senior Coastsiders, among other sponsors, the Nov. 4 event provided an afternoon of resources, networking and information to local seniors. 

Held at Main Street’s bustling senior center, more than a dozen exhibitors spoke to patrons and handed out pamphlets during the free, educational event. Six speakers delved into a variety of topics, such as conscious aging, blood pressure management and accessing digital media at the library. 

As usual, cookies and snacks were plentiful. 

“For all the nonprofits on the coast, it’s really important for us to get a chance to let all of the older adults know what resources are available,” said Hope Atmore, program manager at Senior Coastsiders. “Amazingly, there are a number of people who, before they walk into the event, have no idea that there are so many groups that are out there to help them.

“This is a fantastic chance for them to speak, person to person, with the various people who are running these nonprofits,” she added. 

Nicole Fernandez, a community programs specialist for San Mateo County’s Elder and Dependent Adult Protection Team, works to help seniors who might be victims of abuse. 

“Financial abuse is a big issue,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of seniors being scammed, so we’re trying to promote more (education) about frauds and scams.

“Some of our seniors are being taken for lots of money,” she added. “Thousands of dollars.” 

Toward the back of the exhibit hall, Companions in Waiting, a rescue and adoption service for dogs, cats, kittens and puppies, even brought a few of its fluffy friends along to the festivities.

“We’ve had one of our best adoptive moms come (from) the fair,” said Jo Hamilton, who co-founded the nonprofit back in 2003. “She found a wonderful kitty who’s now 23 years old. She adopted (the cat) when she was 20. That was really important.” 

“It’s a great way to reach out to Coastsiders, especially the seniors, to let them know that having an animal is a wonderful thing to do,” she added. 

For Blanchard, the prospect of meeting like-minded retirees was just another incentive to attend the event.

“I’m trying to age gracefully into being a senior,” he said with a smile.

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