Older Kentucky residents don't live one-size-fits-all lives.
Some are nearing the time when they need help in maintaining their daily routines. Others are just beginning the transition into retirement and are looking forward to lives filled with new adventures.
Fortunately, there will be two conferences on Sept. 14 filled with ideas, resources and just plain fun to meet the needs of a wide range of senior Kentuckians.
The conference scheduled for Mercer County will offer lots of information for seniors seeking a caregiver now or reliable help in the future.
For a couple of years before I returned to college, I worked as a social service aide on the Adult Service Team for the state. My job was to do whatever it took to keep my older clients in their homes as long as possible.
For some I served as a driver, taking them to the grocery or drug store weekly. Some I drove to doctors' appointments or to the hairstylist. And I also served as a maid for others, dusting, mopping and cleaning, work they couldn't do but needed done.
I recalled those days when I spoke with Emeline Woods last week.
Woods, 82, of Harrodsburg, wants her peers to attend the conference at the Mercer County Cooperative Extension Office that she helped get off the ground.
Woods cared for her mother and now she wonders who will care for her.
The time is coming, she said, when she and her friends will need help "aging in place," or remaining independent enough to stay in their own neighborhoods and their churches.
"The three of us don't have family in town or in the state in some cases, and one doesn't have any children at all," Woods said. "The time is coming when we will need help. We knew we had to find some answers and some solutions."
She characterized their efforts as digging a well before getting thirsty.
And, because of the stampede of baby boomers nearing retirement age, that thirst could get pretty severe pretty quickly.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, nearly 16 percent of the population in Mercer County is age 65 and older. For Fayette County that number is 10.5 percent.
How can they ensure there will be enough experienced workers available to tend the needs of a growing number of seniors? How will seniors know how to hire the right one?
"There are not enough caregivers out there," said Luci Hockersmith, Mercer County extension agent for family and consumer science. "We are thinking of this conference as a flare to draw attention to that."
Those caregivers could be retirees who have cared for loved ones, nursing assistants who need flexible hours, or single parents who may need to bring their child to work with them, she said.
Seniors also need to know about other resources available to them such as the Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging, the Senior Companion Program, and how home health works and ways to be knowledgeable about how medications interact.
"We don't want to re-create the wheel," Hockersmith said. "We want to network and share with what is going on."
"We will be a role model for the rest of Kentucky," Woods said.
The caregiving conference is limited to the first 150 participants.
At the same time that conference is going on, the Fayette County Extension Center in Lexington is hosting "The Next Best Years: Living the Good Life!"
Diana W Doggett, County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, said the conference is geared to those who are moving from the work world into retirement.
The extension office offers two conferences a year for seniors. The spring conference highlighted the challenges of aging, while this one is more lighthearted.
Those in attendance will hear about local resources available to aid their transition and possible hobbies, such as wreath-making. There will be cooking demonstrations, exercising through Tai chi, information about medication interactions, and tips on downsizing and decluttering homes.
There also will be a fashion show, sponsored by Chico's.
Which one you attend may just come down to where you are in life. But you're never too old to gain valuable information.
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.