By CAROLYN LUCAS-ZENK
Larry Schuldt enthusiastically raced around a waiting area Sunday inside North Hawaii Community Hospital. Swiftly, but mindfully, the 64-year-old Waikoloa resident circled the small orange cone and sat back in his chair. Seconds later, he was marching, squatting and stretching.
Armed with stopwatches and clipboards, physical therapists from the hospital’s Rehabilitation Services Department recorded his time and movements. Their smiles revealed the results. Schuldt, a former General Motors factory worker, had displayed great balance, endurance and agility at the three testing stations, which were among the numerous complimentary health screenings and wellness education offered during the 25th annual North Hawaii Senior Health Fair.
The event has become something seniors, ages 55 and older, from around the island look forward to and it’s sort of like a tune-up. For many, it provides an opportunity to learn about the various services and options available to them, as well as connect with professionals from many different fields who specialize in issues to improve quality of life. The health fair also is a tremendous asset for attendees who do not have insurance, are not under the care of a particular doctor or don’t possess the funds to pay for a doctor’s visit and screening, said Laurie Edmondson, the event coordinator.
Edmondson said the health fair helps the hospital fulfill its mission “to improve the health status of the people of North Hawaii by improving access to care and providing high quality services.” The event is also a chance to give back to the community and show that the hospital cares, as well as supports National Senior Health and Fitness Day. What Edmondson hoped attendees took away most was a sense of empowerment to take better care of themselves and be in charge of their own health.
More than 200 people attended this year’s event, which featured 24 fun and informative booths on health services, recreational opportunities, financial services and end of life care. There were free oral screening, hearing tests, stroke risk assessments, skin checks, eye screenings, holistic care services, prostate screening, blood pressure tests, as well as blood tests for cholesterol and glucose. Also provided were entertainment, bingo, lunch and prizes.
Attendees were repeatedly encouraged to get into the driver’s seat when it comes to managing their most important vehicles — their bodies — and to put together a “pit crew” of professionals, who are willing to help keep them running strong.
Waimea resident Sabina Palermo, 67, comes to the health fair every year because of the convenience associated with the free screenings. She said the two things that prevents most people from getting a test for possible health issues are cost and fear.
According to Palermo, the health fair helps seniors overcome those hurdles. The free screenings provide a valuable savings for seniors, and the experience is not as stressful or intimidating as going to the doctor’s office, where wait times are much longer, she added. Palermo also enjoys the cheerful, welcoming, relaxing atmosphere.
“It’s important seniors take advantage of health fairs like this because they will get lots of valuable information on many things,” she said. “By taking a pre-screening test, they may learn about problems that can be prevented if caught early. There’s also the social part. You get to meet lots of new people and catch up with people you haven’t seen in years.”
Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at firstname.lastname@example.org.