Health forum helps seniors ‘trump’ stress

At the Sixth Annual Community Health Forum, from left, Sara Vogeler; Lynne Brown; Emma DeVito, Village Care president and C.E.O.; Dr. Jonathan Whiteson; Elizabeth Butson; Dr. Tara Cortes; Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, and Dr. Max Gomez. Photos by Scott R. Axelrod

BY SCOTT R. AXELROD | More than 200 senior citizens gathered at New York University’s Kimmel Center, on Washington Square South, for some hearty health advice, plus a light lunch, at the sixth annual Take Charge of Your Health Today! free community health forum and expo on June 7. The event was co-sponsored by the N.Y.U. Office of Civic Engagement and VillageCare.

Dr. Max Gomez, the Emmy award-winning CBS television medical reporter, returned for his sixth stint as moderator, administering a healthy dose of humor, while stressing the importance of this year’s theme: “Stress Less and Living Well.”

“After a certain age, if you wake up in the morning and something doesn’t hurt, it’s because you’re dead,” Gomez joked. “So look at it as a good thing. It doesn’t mean it’s all over, it just means I’m alive and I’m going to keep going.”

Lynne Brown, N.Y.U.’s senior vice president, noted the large turnout and the timeliness of the event’s theme.

“I don’t know if the organizers pick these topics way ahead of time, but 2016 turned out to be a stressful year,” Brown said.

Elizabeth Butson, the event’s chairperson and a member of the VillageCare board of directors, offered a more politically pointed reason for the topic of the day.

“This year the choice was obvious — stress happens,” Butson said. “No one was prepared for the stress and insanity that hit us the week leading to the presidential election and the post-election week. Some families did not attend family dinners, so they did not get into fierce arguments with family members. Psychotherapists cried, places were crowded, and healthcare worried everybody.”

Max Gomez, Emmy-winning CBS TV medical reporter, energized the crowd.

Milling about the spacious tenth-floor Rosenthal Pavilion — with its picturesque view of Lower Manhattan — attendees sat for complimentary blood pressure and blood glucose tests, while others lined up to lie down for massages. Tote bags brimming with an assortment of pamphlets and promotional tchotchkes vied for table space and seats — including complimentary issues of and subscriptions to The Villager, the event’s media sponsor.

Back in their seats, the audience members sat listening raptly to the five guest panelists, who each spoke about how they’ve found stress to be prevalent in all of their areas of specialty, and offered strategies on how to minimize it, specifically, in situations that can’t be controlled.

“The week before the election, week of the election, and week after, I ran out of [heart] monitors in my office,” Dr. Susan Steinbaum, director of women’s heart health at Lennox Hill Hospital said. “All of my women patients were coming in with palpitations,” she added, unable to avoid connecting the current political climate with peoples’ mental and physical well-being.

Sarah Vogeler of The Neuromuscular Center Inc. performed massage on an attendee at the health forum.

Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, director of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center, Rusk Rehabilitation, spoke at length about the beneficial effects on mood and anxiety of exercise and movement — from yoga, running and hiking to tai chi and dancing.

“I love to dance,” Whiteson said. “I dance at home and embarrass my kids. It’s so much fun. You can do Zumba, the foxtrot, whatever — but do it.

And while Whiteson didn’t bust out any special moves for the occasion, Sara K. Vogeler, founder and director of The NeuroMuscular Center, Inc., literally brought the crowd to its feet. Channeling Richard Simmons, Vogeler stepped off the stage to lead the room through a spirited medley of wiggles, twists, claps, shouts and breathing exercises, before seguing into a hands-on aroma-therapy relaxation presentation.

“You have let the Grinch go,” Vogeler insisted. “That’s the topic, and that’s what we just did. We let the tension go, and that’s the Grinch.”

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