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[November 20, 2006]
GROWING OLD AND STAYING HEALTHY NOT AN OXYMORON
 
Preventive Care of Elders the Mission of Community Health Symposium
 
 
            Aging does not mean you have to become dependent or unproductive. Healthy eating, exercising, and knowledge of preventive healthcare can extend life in a fruitful way.
 
            A “Dine & Learn Healthy Baby Boomer and Savvy Senior Symposium” organized by SUNY Downstate Medical Center in partnership with Berean Baptist Church, and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently was held at the church to educate Brooklyn community residents about the benefits of preventive healthcare, especially for older adults. A multidisciplinary team of physicians and other health professionals from SUNY Downstate presented information on heart disease, stroke, diabetes, human sexuality, HIV/AIDS, fitness in later life, and other topics of interest to seniors.
           
            “Life does not stop at 50, so it’s important to remain independent for longer periods and delay the need for costly long-term care,” said event organizer Karen Jemmott, director of physician outreach at SUNY Downstate. “It should be stressed that poor health and the loss of independence are not inevitable consequences of aging.”
 
             No discussion sparked more interest than the testimonies of five HIV/AIDS speakers who contracted HIV at an age when some people falsely believe they are immune. Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant professor of medicine and of preventive medicine and community health at SUNY Downstate, urged all seniors to take an HIV/AIDS test.
 
            “Age is not a vaccine, and being over 50 does not protect you,” Dr. Sweeney told the audience. “Many people have this preconceived notion of what people with HIV look like. They look like us,” she exclaimed.
 
            Dr. Richard Sadovsky, associate professor of family practice at SUNY Downstate emphasized the importance of building a strong patient-physician relationship. “You have to be brave,” said Dr. Sadovsky, adding, “Tell us the truth. Ask us what you would like to know.”
 
            The symposium was the fifth in a series of community-based, clinically structured health conferences. More than five hundred senior citizens attended the conference and were treated to a complementary dinner afterwards. After the lectures the audience was asked questions to test comprehension of preventive medicine. Individuals who answered questions correctly were given prizes. Health screenings for blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, HIV, and prostate cancer and flu shots were freely available.
 
            Downstate faculty and health providers participating in the evening’s opening program included Dr. Luther Clark, chief of cardiovascular medicine; Dr. Ivan Colon, assistant professor of urology; Dr. Gerald Deas, director of health education communication; Dr. Marian Dunn, director of the Center for Human Sexuality; Rose Jackman, clinical instructor in sports medicine; Dr. Ozgul Muneyyirci-Delale, associate professor of OB/GYN; Dr. Daniel Rosenbaum, chair of neurology; and Maria Yomtov, director of the Community Health Promotion and Wellness Center. Dr. John C. LaRosa, president of SUNY Downstate, gave welcoming remarks.