Successful Aging Festival Fosters Connections with Seniors


Stefanie Turner, right, leads a 45-minute session called 'Gentle Chair Yoga' during the annual Successful Aging Festival in the Campus Center.

Galloway, N.J. — Megan Rinaldo credits her grandmother with why she tends to “lean toward helping seniors more.”

“My grandmother got custody of myself and my brother when I was just a year old. And she raised us. She taught us to respect everybody,” said the Stockton University junior. “I love helping people. That’s kind of my thing, but I especially love helping seniors.”

megan rinaldo, duo helen wei and emily doto

From left, Megan Rinaldo, Duo Helen Wei and Emily Doto talk to a group of senior citizens in a seminar titled 'Smart Devices, Apps and AI' at the Successful Aging Festival on May 15.

Rinaldo, 29, said she became more of her grandmother’s caretaker as she got older, and that led her to go back to school and transfer to Stockton’s Health Science program this year. It was also a big reason why the Millville native really enjoyed presenting a seminar on how smart devices, apps and artificial intelligence can benefit senior citizens at the university’s annual Successful Aging Festival on May 15.

Rinaldo joined Duo Helen Wei, associate professor of Computer Science, and fellow junior Emily Doto to discuss how apps such as Curable can manage chronic pain symptoms and Youper can address mental health issues.

“I think a lot of seniors don’t have access to a lot of the technology, and they don’t understand how to configure it,” Rinaldo said. “But seeing them get wide-eyed and how they can truly understand how this can help them, it really makes me happy.”

The seminar was just one of many free activities that’s part of the annual festival organized by the Stockton Center for Successful Aging (SCOSA). This year’s theme was “Powered by Connections” and focused on the profound impact meaningful relationships and social connections have on our health and well-being. An estimated 300 people took part in other sessions ranging from “Gentle Chair Yoga” to “Health, Healing and Spirituality” and “How Old is Your Brain? Using EEG and MRI to Estimate Brain Health.”

“Stockton, obviously, serves our students and that’s our priority, but Stockton is and wants to be part of the greater community, as well,” said Christine Ferri, the assistant director of SCOSA and an associate professor of Psychology and Gerontology. “It’s certainly important for us as gerontologists to see older adults as people who have much to give. And they have much to learn. We can offer those opportunities.”

successful aging festival

More than 40 groups from hospice and palliative care companies to preferred care facilities set up tables to offer services to seniors at the festival.

Ethyl Mobley certainly appreciated the information she learned from the AI seminar, even as she called herself “one of the elderlies that is a little bit technologically savvy.”

“I’m a little more adept than my friends or peers are,” said the Atlantic City resident. “But this is very informative for those who just feel like they don’t know what to do to get started with a smartphone.”

As a first-time attendee, Mobley, who got her teacher certification at Stockton through the alternate route, was thrilled that her alma mater hosted the festival.

“I think it’s wonderful. There’s really not a lot going on for seniors, especially active seniors, to keep us more informed,” said the 62-year-old.

In addition to the seminars, the festival featured a marketplace for authors, artists and crafters and an exhibit hall where more than 40 groups from hospice and palliative care companies to preferred care facilities set up tables to offer services to seniors.

Phyllis Adams learned about the festival as a volunteer for AmeriCorps Seniors, a group that pairs thousands of Americans aged 55 and older with organizations making change in communities. The 75-year-old planned on spending all day at the festival, especially once she saw all of the different activities.

“Because of my age, I’m interested in the information that this was offering. Only to find that every table has something that I need to know about,” said the Atlantic City native. “I came here wanting to experience what was being offered, only to find out how much I needed everything. I think it’s great because you don’t know what you don’t know.”

paul bohn

Paul Bohn, a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, was the keynote speaker.

The keynote speaker was Paul Bohn, a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Bohn spoke about the future of personalized health care through precision medicine. As the director of the Berthiaume Institute for Precision Health at Notre Dame, Bohn has been studying how society is moving away from traditional epidemiological views of disease and more toward a personalized approach with patients.

“Personalized or precision medicine is pretty easy to describe. It’s simply delivering the right treatment to the right person at the right time,” Bohn said. “We want to have a real-world impact by creating a community and training young researchers. It’s very important for us to think about how to move advances out of the academic laboratory and into the hospital and into the broader society where they can be utilized effectively.”

The festival also acknowledged the work of SCOSA Director Dave Burdick, a professor of Psychology, who is retiring after 40 years at Stockton. He has been the only director the center has had since its creation in 2007. Starting July 1, Ferri will become the new director and Psychology Professor Jessica Fleck will become the assistant director.

“The festival is a nice way to put an exclamation mark on the career,” Burdick said. “One of the most important things about the history of Stockton — it’s in our genes — is to bring people together. We shouldn’t separate the generations. It’s important to open our doors to the community and help seniors stay engaged.”

— Story by Mark Melhorn, photos by Susan Allen