State Sen. Williams hosts District 29 Senior Fair

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
State Sen. Don Williams, Jr., talks with Betty Reiss-Gagner at the District 29 Senior Fair. Photo by D. Coffey.
State Sen. Don Williams, Jr., talks with Betty Reiss-Gagner at the District 29 Senior Fair. Photo by D. Coffey.

A steady stream of seniors passed through the doors of the Community Room at Quinebaug Valley Community College on Oct. 25. They were there to take advantage of the District 29 Senior Fair sponsored by state Sen. Don Williams, Jr. (D-29). On hand were representatives from social service, consumer protection, transportation, health and medical agencies. They’d been brought together so that area seniors could have access to them in person in one convenient location.

“We want to improve the quality of life for our seniors in northeastern Connecticut,” Williams said. “First and foremost is having the knowledge about what services and programs are available.”

Claudette Carveth with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection was on hand to talk to seniors about any concerns they might have regarding fraud. She’s gotten numerous complaints from seniors who have been bilked out of money for unnecessary home improvements. They’re getting sales calls even though they are on the Do-Not-Call list. Sales reps are using hard sell techniques.

“These people are skilled at what they do,” Carveth said. “We’re urging seniors to screen their calls, and to hang up on telemarketers. If you’re not careful, you can give away money and important information that you don’t want to part with. It’s a very competitive world and we have to be on guard.”

“The high-pressure sales tactics and door-to-door solicitation are wrong,” Williams said. “We don’t want our seniors to feel pressured or to be misled.”

The fair’s reach was broad. Election officer Joan Gibson from the Secretary of the State’s office was on hand to explain how voters can cast their ballots by phone. Anne Hughes from the Commission on Aging spoke about the work being done to address the skyrocketing rates of Alzheimer’s. Representatives from the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group, AARP, the Northeastern Connecticut Transit District and Generations Health Center lent their ears and expertise to the seniors who passed by their tables. There was information on legislation affecting seniors, advice on avoiding fraud, guarding against identity theft and assistive technology lemon laws. 

Art Mongillo is a committee clerk with the Select Committee on Aging. He called the fair a clearinghouse of information for the elderly. “It’s better than having them navigate the system by themselves, whether it’s by phone or website,” he said. “People are here and they are available to talk.”

This season 12 senior fairs are scheduled across the state. At some, seniors are given meals, health screenings, blood pressure checks, immunizations, flu shots and massages.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck and you’re not paying anything,” Mongillo said.

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