Maine summit strives to recast aging in positive light

AUGUSTA — Jacquie Guerin is well-acquainted with the challenges of aging.

She left a good-paying job in information technology to take care of her mother, who died at the end of 2014 after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. When Guerin, who is 58 and now lives in Sanford, was trying to re-enter the workforce, she worried that her computer skills hadn’t kept up with the demands of the field, and that she would have trouble entering a new industry.

“I was scared to start over again,” she said Wednesday morning. “I was (in my 50s), and I was scared I wouldn’t get interviews because of my age.”

Guerin told her story as part of a panel discussion about the opportunities available to people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as their caretakers, to continue working. The panel discussion was part of a daylong summit at the Augusta Civic Center hosted by the Maine Council on Aging.

The theme of the summit was “reframing aging,” and many of the workshops and presentations tried to focus on the ways that the state’s graying population is an asset, as opposed to a burden. Maine has one of the oldest populations in the country, with its median age of 44.6 topping the list of all states, according to a report this year by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The break-out sessions Wednesday focused on everything from starting businesses to learning to play musical instruments to helping the elderly stay in their homes.

Even though Alzheimer’s disease is often seen as a “gloom and doom” diagnosis, the panel discussion was partly meant to highlight how “folks (with dementia) live a good, long time and have the opportunity to keep contributing,” said Jess Maurer, an organizer of the summit.

Maurer is co-chairwoman of the Maine Council on Aging, an umbrella organization of groups that are focused on the elderly, and executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive…

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