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MUSC Senior Expo a one-stop shop

Dawn Brazell | brazell@musc.edu | March 2, 2017

Dr. Heather Boger
Photos by Dawn Brazell
Dr. Heather Boger stands beneath George the duck in her MUSC office.

Everyone has a story. Just take George the duck, dangling from the ceiling of researcher Heather Boger.

She smiles fondly as she tells the story of how she found him in the refrigerator freezer of a friend’s house when she was an undergraduate student. He became a taxidermy project for one of her classes, he then went into storage in a dusty college attic, only to be rescued by her years later to have a place of honor in her office.

It’s just that kind of sensitivity that Boger, Ph.D., brings to her research on Parkinson’s disease, to being the new director of MUSC’s Center on Aging and to hatching a new idea that the center should host a Senior Expo March 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Omar Convention Center in Mount Pleasant.

It’s a great place to swap stories and for seniors, their caregivers and service providers to learn about some outstanding resources in the Lowcountry that can enhance the quality of life for seniors, she says.

MUSC physicians and researchers are offering complimentary health screenings, including:

  • mini-mental exams
  • fall risk assessments
  • pulmonary
  • bone density
  • blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • foot exams 

The MUSC Wellness Center will host demonstrations of its Ageless & Fit and STAE Fit programs, specially formulated for seniors. The culinary team at Franke at Seaside will offer live, healthy cooking demos and ServiceMaster has dessert covered with an ice cream truck. Fire and police departments will be at the expo to help demonstrate SMART 911.

“The pharmacy students will also be providing a couple of vaccinations and medication reviews, so it’s going to be a nice wide spectrum of health screening services. Seniors can learn about research advances, and we will have research groups that are going to be there recruiting for clinical studies. So, it will also be an exposure to the research world as well as community groups, exercise demos and healthy eating and food cooking demos.”

Heather Boger 
Boger says the Senior Expo fits into MUSC's healthy communities initiative, part of its Imagine 2020 campaign.  

Boger, who got the idea for the expo from her father, says there will be a wide assortment of local vendors and service providers to help seniors navigate everything from support groups to safety programs. Her father was a chamber of commerce director in York County, and he would host senior fairs that were successful in educating seniors about all the community resources that were available but that many didn’t know about.

Given the large senior population in the Lowcountry and that MUSC is such a big hub providing clinical and research resources for this population, it seemed the perfect idea to try here, she says.

“I think a lot is being done right now as far as the awareness of just the aging process. There are a lot of initiatives across the nation looking at quality of life care. I think we as a medical field have gotten away from that a little bit — to just treat the disease rather than the quality of life for a patient. One of my big things is for them to understand that just because you’re 55 or 65 or 90, you’re not sitting in front of a TV watching soap operas. Everybody matters.”

MUSC’s Center on Aging serves as an interprofessional resource, focusing on education, research and service. Globally, there is a great need in increasing therapies for all neurodegenerative diseases from Parkinson’s disease, her area of specialty, to Alzheimer’s disease, where advances are being made in finding genetic targets and developing better biomarkers.

Beyond the research front, there’s a need for holistic, comprehensive care for seniors.

“One thing I really like seeing at MUSC as a prime example of this is the money and initiatives being set aside for palliative care. It’s one of the greatest things that has happened here.”

An MUSC Palliative Care social worker and program specialist will be promoting advance care planning at the expo, giving tips and handouts on how to have the conversation to find out family members’ wishes for difficult medical situations and maintaining one’s quality of life. Many families have to make difficult decisions about life-sustaining treatment for a person who can’t speak. Research shows that families who have had these conversations have a much less complicated grieving experience after the loss of a loved one. South Carolina Heath Care Power of Attorney documents and palliative care information also will be distributed.

The Center on Aging works internally with MUSC’s faculty, students and staff to encourage geriatric training and to augment resources directed to serving the health needs of an aging population. It’s involved with a successful Senior Mentor Program that connects MUSC medical students with seniors aged 65 and older. The center also has an external focus in the community, working in collaboration with organizations such as the Lowcountry Senior Network and the National Aging in Place Council. The expo, which will be an annual event, is another example of the community outreach arm.

“With such a large portion of the population entering the senior demographic, we are passionate about providing the best opportunities for this community to stay active, engaged and educated on healthy aging strategies.”