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Healthy Living Festival

‘This event recognizes us’: Seniors flock to Oakland festival promoting health and wellness

on September 29, 2022

The 19th Annual Healthy Living Festival, Alameda County’s largest event for seniors, returned to the Oakland Zoo Thursday for its first in-person event in two years.

Hosted by United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County, the free festival featured 80 vendors and promoted health and wellness among adults over age 55. 

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who was one of the festival’s founders, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult and dangerous for seniors.

“This event allows them to socialize, remove isolation, loneliness, and depression, be actively involved and engaged,” Miley said.

Donna Schroeder (left) and Karen Corrreia have been friends since meeting at square dancing.

Fremont resident Karen Correia and her friend Donna Schroeder were among the nearly 2,000 festival-goers, who were greeted with reusable bags that quickly filled with flyers and brochures. Moving from booth to booth, they picked up information about topics such as conservatorships and in-home service programs. The pandemic has made it harder to find information, Correia said, because people aren’t in offices answering phones.

“It’s nice to know what’s available in this whole area, not just your city,” she said. “I like the exposure. You are exposed to a lot of different things that you might not normally have time to discover.”

The five-hour festival boasted live music, nutritious food, health screenings, flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, access to zoo animals, and activities such as tai chi and zumba. At one booth, attendees wrote postcards to elected officials, asking for their support on measures that would improve their quality of life.

“We always try to tie in something that’s action-oriented,” said Miley. 

In between activities, people posed at an outdoor photo booth in hot pink hats, shimmery gold necklaces, and flower headbands. It didn’t take long for some to wrap sweaters around their waists as they danced to the electric slide. 

Miley has championed the senior community since the 1980s and frequently notes, “A community that’s good for seniors is good for everyone.”

Healthy Living Festival
Festival volunteer Pat Richardson (left) works the registration table with Mary Bradd, administrative assistance at United Seniorrs of Oakland and Alameda County. (Cayla Mihalovich)

The festival grew out of a state grant that United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County received 19 years ago. United Seniors organized walking groups, which eventually led to a celebration that became known as the Healthy Living Festival. 

This year’s festival was a stark contrast from 2021’s drive-through event and 2020’s virtual gathering. And festival enrollment was up 25%.

Vendors included Citizens for Autonomous Aging, Department of Adult & Aging Services, and Pacific Center for Human Growth, to name a few. The festival offered organizations an opportunity to connect with the community they serve and share valuable information. 

Castro Valley resident Anna Ortiz has been coming to the festival for years and this year, brought her friend Carmen Bryant of San Leandro with her. The two met in a fall prevention class seven years ago.

“As we get older, sometimes seniors are overlooked,” Ortiz said. “This event recognizes us. Everyone is grateful for it.”

Healthy Living Festival
Thousands of seniors attended the Healthy Living Festival at the Oakland Zoo (Cayla Mihalovich)

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