For this week's wellness blog, the NCRPA Wellness Initiative interviewed Michael Dorsey, Wellness Coordinator for Cabarrus County Active Living and Parks. The interview focuses on the Cabarrus County's Senior Health & Wellness Expo. Special thanks to Michael for his insightful answers!
1. What inspired the creation of the Senior Health & Wellness Expo in Cabarrus County?
The Senior Health and Wellness Expo is the evolution of an annual event called “Senior Health and Fitness Day” that started about 20 years ago with the Cabarrus County Senior Center in Concord, NC. Senior Health and Fitness Day was a national campaign among senior centers to promote health and fitness. The original health and fitness day started with a couple exercise demos, and a few medical practice exhibitor booths set up in the multipurpose room of the senior center. The event continued to grow in the number of attendees and exhibitors who wanted to participate and thus had to expand to larger facilities including church multipurpose rooms and YMCA gymnasiums over the past 20 years.
Around 5 years ago, the event grew to over 40 different exhibitor booths, in addition to local hospital health screenings (Carolina’s Healthcare System/Atrium Health) and a touring vision and hearing screening bus provided by the Lion’s Club. The name was changed to the “Senior Health and Wellness Expo” and the event moved to a larger space, the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center.
2. Can you give us a brief overview of how the Senior Health & Wellness Expo is Run?
The Senior Health and Wellness Expo is presented by the Cabarrus County Active Living
and Parks (ALPs) Department. Our department is consists of two senior centers and four
parks. The ALPs Wellness Coordinator oversees the planning of the event along with a
committee of around 6-10 people who are members of the Senior Center Advisory Council. The Senior Center Advisory Council is made up of staff members from the ALPs department, cooperative extension, HealthCare system, and health department.
The committee works on decisions such as the theme, event layout, event time, activities, registration, door prizes, and more. They also help to make marketing calls to churches and senior living facilities, as well as stuff goodie bags and work the registration table for attendees and exhibitor/sponsor on the day of the event.
Sponsor/Exhibitor registration starts 4 months before the event. Setup takes place the day before the event where we decorate, place signage for each booth, and allow for some exhibitor setup. On event day, there is a registration table where you can sign up for a door prize, receive a map of the layout of the event, and get general instructions for the event. The registration table is usually run by one staff member and volunteers from the Senior Center Advisory Council.
Attendees then file into the flow of the exhibitor hall and enjoy activities such as educational sessions, health screenings, stage demonstrations, and more.
The stage is an important part of the event as it provides announcements such as sponsor information and educational session times, as well as entertainment and education with upbeat class demonstrations (Zumba, Line Dance, and CPR demonstrations).
3. Have you established any partnerships to facilitate this day? If so, how
important are these partnerships?
Partnerships are an important part of making this event happen. Carolinas HealthCare
System (Atrium Health) has been a great partner in giving the event credibility in the community
as a health promotion event. They have historically been helpful in providing health screenings, in addition to helping coordinate around 10-15 booths from their departments.
The Cabarrus County Cooperative Extension department is very helpful in planning the
event, as they normally provide around six booths from their different clubs who provide
attendees with healthy snacks. The healthy snacks have become a staple of the Expo. In the past, we have tried to serve a sit-down lunch at the event but found some of the participants would just come to sit down and eat and then leave without visiting exhibitor booths.
Our Senior Center Advisory Council and Cabarrus County Council on Aging are very
important partners as they give us input from the older adults in our area about what they would
like to see at the event and providing us with plenty of volunteers to help with setup day and day
of the event needs.
Other Cabarrus County departments such as the sheriff’s department, EMS, and fire department always participate to provide a medication drop-off area and CPR training, as
well as being on hand to add an extra safety during the event.
Other partners include:
The Lions Club, who schedule their vision and hearing screening bus for the event every year
The National Kidney Foundation provides kidney health screenings, with over 10 booths of doctors and nurses taking health measurements
The NC Baptist Aging Ministry provides balance screenings
UNC Charlotte Exercise Science Department provides Strength and Fitness Tests that are relevant to older adults.
Insurance companies (Humana, United HealthCare, Allstate, etc.)
Home Improvement companies
Other businesses who have products and services they wish to market to the older adult population
4. How do you promote this event to the public?
To promote this event to the public, we list it in all of our usual monthly and bi-monthly
publications. We also promote on Facebook by purchasing sponsored posts so more people see them. Additionally, we call every church in our area to try to get them to post flyers and spread the word. Another large avenue is contacting all of the local senior apartment complexes and assisted living facilities to let them know of the event. Lastly, we add the event to a number of free calendars, such as the online list through our local newspaper, “Health Happenings”.
5. Are there any especially hard logistical challenges that have come about during
the planning of your event?
Logistical challenges of the event include the layout of the event. Difficulties have come
up in the past including the sound from the stage interrupting different screenings and
exhibitor conversations with attendees.
Another logistical challenge is getting the health screenings that the older adults want,
such as A1C and cholesterol checks. We have had these provided for free in the past, but
with the growing attendance level at the event, it has been hard to get any organization to
provide certain screenings for free.
A third logistical challenge is the planning and implementation of the event. Since the
event has now grown to over 80 different exhibitors and health screenings, it is a significant
task and workload to coordinate with that many different businesses and organizations while
still handling other job duties outside of this event. A committee and group of staff should be
available in order to help with this if the event is large enough.
6. What has been the biggest success of the Senior Health & Wellness Expo?
The biggest success of the event has been the outcome from the Health Screenings. A
couple of years ago, we curtained off areas where doctors and physicians assistants
provided skin checks for skin cancer. One attendee who had a check ended up having to
make an appointment, as something did not look right.
They found out that the individual had a dangerous skin cancer, and were able to catch it early enough so it did not spread to any other areas. We have many attendees who mention on their surveys that they spoke with a doctor at the event and found out something they did not know before, or that they made an appointment to see someone because of something they found out that needed to be checked.
Another big success of the Expo is the collaboration among businesses, nonprofits, city/county organizations, and other groups in our region to put on an event for older adults
promoting the health benefits of their products and services. The event provides a great
opportunity for businesses to network with participants as well with each other, and it shows the
older adults in our area that these businesses care about their health.