Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 Mid-America Institute on Aging and Wellness

MAIA 10th Anniversary Program & Swag Bag.
Every August, the University of Southern Indiana partners with the local Area Agency on Aging--SWIRCA--and others to present a two-day institute on aging and wellness.

As an employee of the university, I had the privilege of attending several sessions on Thursday, August 10th and Friday August 11th. I also received an invitation to attend the pre-conference workshop led by dementia educator Teepa Snow.  I discussed the events of Wednesday, August 9th in a previous post.

Below are highlights from a handful of sessions.

I'm loathe to admit that I could not attend every session.  There were 27 people leading concurrent sessions and four keynote speakers: Bill Thomas, MD, Faith Roberts, MSN, CRRN; Dean Hartley, PhD; and Neha Sangwan, MD.  There as also an exhibit hall featuring dozens of local business and agencies who support aging and wellness.

Such a wealth of experience and perspectives!

Many healthcare professionals attending earn CME credits (continuing medical education), but a good portion of those present are not healthcare professionals; they are community members who are pro-active about their physical, financial, social, and emotional health.

What follows are my notes that are woefully inadequate. I suggest that you attend next year so that you can follow the sessions that interest you the most.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheGenAboveMe
Thursday, August 10th 8:30 am "Eldertopia: Changing Aging Forever." I attended the keynote led by Bill Thomas, MD. I have been reading his books, following him on Twitter, and reading posts on the blog Changing Aging that he maintains with many other supporters of positive aging.

Most salient was his discussion of how older adults need to reinvent how they MESH: move, eat, sleep, heal.

If I remember correctly, Dr. Thomas will start recording a series of videos about MESH, which he will post on his FB page.

It was a delight to hear him speak. He has a holistic, intergenerational approach to aging that is hard to capture in sound bites.

I suggest reading Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, More Connected Life.

At the book signing
After his session, I had the chance to buy his sci/fi fantasy novel, Tribes of Eden, and get it signed. I look forward to reading how older adults will help address society's problems in this work of fiction. This novel will certainly explore how people can better integrate the generations for society's overall benefit.

Thursday, August 10, 2017 10 am "Natural Solutions for Digestive and Bowel Disorders." I got to hear Bonnie Schnautz, ND, discuss natural remedies for digestive and bowel disorders. She provided a lot of good information about how our digestion is affected by foods we eat, the amount of fluids we drink, the medications we are on (including over-the-counter), and the amount of exercise we get.

Thursday, August 10, 2017 Lunch!  I got to meet three new people during lunch. One of them was Liesl Fraley, BSc, MSc, MHA, CES, who just finished a presentation entitled "Harmonicas for Better Living." Fraley works with people who have lung transplants, teaching them how to play the harmonica as a method for increasing lung capacity.

Fraley has a series of videos on YouTube about her method.  Note that she works with a hospital. In the video, the hospital is listed as St. Mary's of Evansville, Indiana. However, St. Mary's changed names earlier this year to St. Vincent.  Use a search engine to find the Pulmonary support group information once St. Vincent updates their pages.

I was touched by the connection that Fraley had with the members of her support group. Many of them came to demonstrate their harmonica skills. And one of the people at my table was a spouse of a lung transplant recipient. Fraley talked about picnics, fund raisers, and other activities sponsored by the pulmonary support group. The people in this group--therapists, patients, and loved ones--are clearly engaged, caring people. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017 11:30 am. "The Sacred Joy of Drumming." Cynthia Goodwin RN, MSN, CHTP, CR and Peggy Graul, MSN, RN, CHTP led a group of participants in an hour of sacred drumming. They explained the basics. However, we spent most of the time playing drums.

We did three types of drumming: expressive, meditative, and healing. I admit that I was occupied in the activity that I didn't take notes, so I'm not sure that I am using the same labels they did for these three drum styles.

Here is just one explanation of the social, emotional, physical, and spiritual effects of drumming.  I admired the drum circle leaders--Cynthia and Peggy--very much for their calm, friendly, grounded, healing manner.  If sacred drumming results in such character, sign me up.

August 10, 2017 1:30 pm. "LGBT Issues on Aging" presentation by Kelley M. Coures, BA. Course works in the mayor's office and has worked locally for decades on civil rights and with charitable organizations.

Coures reviewed the history of discrimination that LGBT have faced in the US with particular attention to the ways older LGBT people are discriminated against in senior housing and health care.

His PowerPoint included not just key points in history but some select statistics. For example:

"Estimate: by 2050 there will be over 300 million GLBT persons over the age of 50 in the United States, and 12 million over 65."

"Missing spousal benefit costs the average survivor in a LGBT relationship $28,000 per year in lost income. Years without marriage benefits have left a serious gap in most LGBT unions."

At this point, the nature of the problem is more defined than the ways to address inequality. However, Coures did reference some advocacy groups, such as Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), headquarters on NY, NY.

Friday, August 11, 2017 10 am.  "Let's #DisruptAgeism Together" led by E. Ayn Welleford, MSG, PhD, AGHEF.  Dr. Welleford is an associate professor and chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Gerontology.

She thinks critically about the language society uses about aging and the social framework that promotes ideas, attitudes, behaviors and policies based on a person's age.

Welleford used a combination of theory, questions, and examples to raise awareness about how much ageism still persists despite the fact that Baby Boomers--who have a reputation for being cultural revolutionaries--are entering the second half.

I was particularly giddy about meeting Welleford, given that I follow her department's Twitter account: @AgeWellVA I was trying to remain calm and composed, but I probably talked a little too much in her session as I failed to contain my enthusiasm.

Friday, August 11, 2017 Lunch!  I got to sit on a long table with several attendees, organizers, and presenters. I was inspired by their knowledge, passion, professional achievements, civic engagements, and hobbies.  At our table, we had a free-wheeling discussion about volunteer work, social class, chronic evictions, gender roles, the life work of the keynote speakers and more.

There are interesting people at MAIA, so I find the conversations between sessions as enriching as the presentations themselves.

Friday, August 11, 2017 12:30 am. "Accepting Aging as AWEsome" was led by Evansville storyteller, Susan E. Fowler.

Locals are familiar with her work at Evansville libraries and schools. She has a very interactive manner. She doesn't just stand alone and recite a story; she brings people out of the audience and assigns them roles.

It was great to see participants dramatize story characters and express a range of emotions. The stories gave us the opportunity to be less cerebral and to consider aging in a whole body / whole emotion way. Fowler doesn't have a social media presence (yet), but if you contact the public library in Evansville or the USI Center for Aging and Wellness, they can help you connect. Or send me an email (listed on the left column in the web version--not phone version--of this page).

Tim from SWIRCA
At 1:30 pm there were more concurrent sessions, and at 2:55 pm there was a plenary session. However, I decided to spent that time in the exhibit halls talking to people who provide goods and services related to aging and wellness.

I talked to people who provide wound care, hospice services, therapy for those who have traumatic brain injuries, counseling about Medicare and more.  I also made appointments to meet a World War II veteran who lives locally and to tour the SWIRCA offices.

I left filled to the brim with new knowledge and invigorated to safeguard my own wellness and to connect with people of all generations in order to elevate individuals and enrich society.

See you next year at MAIA 2018!  Check out this webpage for information about MAIA institutes past and future.


2019 MAIA Preview
2018 MAIA Keynote and Plenary Speakers
2018 Mid-America Institute on Aging PREVIEW
2016 Mid-America Institute on Aging
Wichita's Positive Aging Day 2013


  1. I love the use of a harmonica as lung capacity therapy! Out of the box holistic treatment!! Thanks for all the info from the conference.

    1. That was certainly one of the most innovative sessions. I love conferences. There's so much to learn from other people. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Haralee.