Nevada County Conference on aging, disability doubles in size over previous year |

Nevada County Conference on aging, disability doubles in size over previous year

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

Paul Platner and his grandson Gage came looking for answers.

They attended last week's Aging and Disability Conference to figure out how Gage, a 20-year-old with Down Syndrome, can successfully transition from public education to private life.

"He will be aging out of the education system and into real life," explained Platner. "The school bus now comes to take him to school. But next he'll need transportation to where he's going to be learning about life skills, and where he might end up living and working."

Platner said the conference provided information about a variety of resources, such as those offered by the FREED Center for Independent Living, Gold Country Stage and Helping Hands Caregiver Resource Center's adult daycare program.

“There are so many organizations in our county that are really committed to improving the individual’s quality of life and helping people get the resources they need.”

— Ana Acton, FREED executive director

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"It's a big nut to crack," he said.

More than 170 people attended the Aging and Disability Conference at Grass Valley's Gold Miners Inn.

"There's a waiting list every year," said Ana Acton, Executive Director of FREED. "That says people are interested in these topics about aging and disability, and they're looking for information and resources."


Workshops covered topics such as Protecting Yourself from Fraud, Planning for Life Events as We Age, and Preparing for an Emergency.

Affordable and accessible housing was also addressed.

"For people with disabilities, it's even more of a struggle," said Acton. "Imagine looking for housing that is affordable but also wheelchair accessible. The available inventory shrinks."

Acton said FREED received a Community Services Block Grant of $72,000 to help the nonprofit address homelessness issues. She said FREED will learn in the coming weeks whether it will receive a different annual grant of $130,000 to $150,000.

"There are many homeless individuals who are disabled," Acton said. "A large percentage have a disability, whether it's mental health or physical issues."

Cindy Benson has attended the past three Aging and Disability Conferences. Despite suffering brain damage at birth, the 68-year-old leads an active life thanks in part to the Neighborhood Center of the Arts, where she creates art projects in a variety of media five days a week. Benson said she learned valuable information at the conference's fraud prevention workshop.

"Right now, my passwords are listed on my computer as 'Passwords,'" she said. "I'm going to change and call them 'Recipes' instead. I've learned something at every conference."

Benson was one of 13 artist clients from the Neighborhood Center of the Arts who attended last week's conference. Amee Medeiros, Director at the Neighborhood Center of the Arts, said she'll share with her other artists what she gleaned.

"I brought 13 here today, but there are another 72 who are affiliated with our art studio," said Medeiros. "A lot of my folks are seniors with different abilities and can easily be taken advantage of if they're not well-educated. I'll return to the program and teach what I've learned."


The annual Aging and Disability Conference has grown steadily since its inception four years ago. The number of vendors doubled this year over last, forcing organizers to expand the vendor area from the hotel's banquet room foyer to include the outdoor patio.

The conference was hosted by the Aging and Disability Resource Center, a collaboration between FREED, the Agency on Aging Area 4, and local healthcare providers, educators and partner organizations.

Sponsors of the conference included Anthem Blue Cross, the SCAN Foundation, California Health and Wellness, Chapa-De Indian Health, Comfort Keepers, Drs Chan, Moon & Associates, and West America Bank.

"There are so many organizations in our county that are really committed to improving the individual's quality of life and helping people get the resources they need," said Acton. "What's unique is the engagement of the community. I appreciate the willingness of government, nonprofits, and for-profit entities to come together to find solutions for people with disabilities. The leadership is there that can make it happen."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at

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