The annual Centralina Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Conference has been a popular and successful event for more than 20 years. The 2021 Aging Conference was no exception even though it transitioned to a virtual format. Centralina AAA Director Linda Miller explains, “We had to cancel our 2020 Conference due to COVID and we wanted to ensure we wouldn’t have to cancel this year, so we decided to offer the 2021 conference virtually.” Despite this change, the conference boasted more than 300 attendees on Friday, Oct. 1, with people joining the online event from as far away as Maryland, Denver and even Nevada.
Kenyon Salo delivered the keynote address, “The Bucket List Life,” and shared his simple process to guide others to live a more fulfilled life through adventures, storytelling and connecting with others. He challenged attendees to think about what was holding them back from pursuing their dreams and cited common limiting factors including time, funding, responsibilities and fear. Salo states, “You’re only born with two fears – falling & loud noises. All other fears are learned.” Attendees were encouraged to frequently engage with each other and presenters through the Zoom chat feature.
After the interactive keynote address, participants had their choice of a dozen break-out sessions to choose from on a variety of current aging topics including supporting LGBT older adults, suicide prevention, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, Medicaid transformation, COVID social impacts on vulnerable populations, the student loan debt / senior connection and more.
Affordable Continuing Education for Aging Professionals
Access to high-quality, affordable education classes has always been important to Centralina AAA. Historically, the conference partnered with sponsors, making it possible for Centralina AAA to offer the event at very affordable rates. Although the virtual sponsorship package looked quite different this year, more than 12 sponsors played a significant role in the event, which helped continue the tradition of offering conference tickets at reasonable prices. In addition, volunteers were invited to attend at no cost and students were offered a discounted rate.
Planning a Virtual Conference
Conference planning is a year-round effort. Co-led by Regional Ombudsman Hillary Kaylor and Aging Program Specialist Julia Burrowes, Centralina AAA staff worked hard to ensure the conference provided a great keynote and a wide variety of breakout-session topics to draw interest. “Switching to a virtual conference required more pre-planning and relied heavily on staff teamwork,” explains Burrowes. In fact, each conference session had at least two staff serving as virtual hosts to ensure that everything ran smoothly.
Hear what conference participants had to say:
“The conference this year was by far, the BEST!! I didn’t expect it to be since it was virtual. Thanks for your hard working in putting together a very successful conference!”
“I loved Kenyan’s opening session. This year’s conference seemed very well planned out and was very organized.”
“I thank Centralina for taking the time during these extreme circumstances to still provide training for the region and many others.”