Record crowd attends Senior Expo in Cocoa


Deena Miles of Rockledge and Betty Hunt Webb of Merritt Island enjoyed the Boomer Guide Senior Expo at the Space Coast Convention Center in Cocoa.

Darrell Woehler

More than 1,000 people — the largest crowd ever — packed the Space Coast Convention Center in Cocoa for the eighth annual Boomer Guide Senior Expo on March 1.

The expo included live music, educational exhibits, demonstrations, limited free medical screenings and the unveiling of the 2019 Boomer Guide, published by the award-winning Bluewater Creative Group. The group, which organized the expo, also publishes the Viera Voice and Senior Life of Florida.

The 2019 Boomer Guide is a comprehensive fact book of everything boomers and seniors need to know about what’s going on, things to do and places to visit in Brevard County.

“We had a full house and we got a lot of wonderful compliments,” said Bluewater Creative Group CEO Jill Blue. “The vendors were awesome. The band and dancers were awesome. Many of the vendors said it was the best expo we’ve ever put on.”

One of the highlights of this year’s expo was the live entertainment provided by Lanakila’s troupe of Polynesian dancers.

“We take people on a musical journey to Polynesia,” said Nathan Pokipala, who started Lanakila’s 29 years ago.

A native of Maui, Hawaii, Pokipala said Lanakila’s has its beginnings as the first traveling Polynesian entertainment company on the Eastern Seaboard.

The live performances included musicians, hula dancers and a male knife dancer.

“I came to watch the hula girls,” said a smiling 75-year-old Jim Phillips of Michigan, who makes his “snowbird” home in Viera. “This is the third time I’ve been here and it gets better every year. They put on a good program.”

Phillips said he likes to visit the travel vendors because he’s interested in the cruises and short-term trips around Florida.

About 60 vendors filled the convention center and adjacent hallways, including some of the expo’s major sponsors — Cedar Creek Life Center on Merritt Island; elder law Attorney William A. Johnson of Melbourne, and Brevard Eye Center (the expo’s video sponsor).

“We’re proud of being part of this great event,” said Jason Rodriguez, Cedar Creek’s executive director. “I think it’s very important for the community to see what’s out there. That’s why we’re here.

Rodriguez said the emphasis is on keeping the body, mind and soul as healthy as possible. And the food at Cedar Creek strives to be the best, thanks to the talents of his culinary team.

“This is not hospital or institutional food. At Cedar Creek, we cook from our hearts.” he said.

Rodriguez and his staff showcased their culinary skills with bite sizes of barbecue meats, a popular stop for many expo visitors.

Johnson said being an expo sponsor was a great opportunity to meet with the community, get our name out there and connect with the demographics.

Johnson talked about elder care issues such as estate, incapacity and long-term care planning, guardianships, probate, Medicaid and wills and trusts. He also made available copies of his 2019 Brevard County edition: The Florida Long Term Care & Nursing Home Answer Book.

“It’s never too young to start preparing,” he said. “The point is to know the rules and plan accordingly. If you don’t plan ahead, you can end up in a really bad situation.”

Johnson is an expert on elder law. The Melbourne attorney is the only one in the county to be board certified in elder law by the Florida Bar Association.

Few attorneys achieve this high level of expertise. In 2017 and 2018, he was named Member of the Year by the Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar Association.

Kevin Garrity, CEO of the Brevard Eye Center and Medical City Eye Center, said he’s glad his company was the expo’s video sponsor.

“It’s a great event,” he said. “It’s a great way to introduce the Brevard Eye Center to the community and to meet some of the folks because our primary population is boomers.”

The company has been in business in Brevard County for 35 years, with three locations — Suntree, Melbourne and Merritt Island. Its surgery center is in Melbourne.

Barbara Franklin, the referral specialist at One Senior Place in Viera, and one of the vendors that manned an information table, said the expo gave her an opportunity to let seniors know who they are and what they do.

“Many seniors are not aware that we are a resource center,” she said. “We have so many events that educate seniors as well as activities for them that are fun.”

Kristie Meade, the community outreach coordinator for Hospice of St. Francis, said the expo is an important venue to reach out to the community.

“The expo is a one-stop shop place for seniors,” she said. “We want to educate and answer questions about our organization such as who pays for hospice, where we serve our patients and how can I volunteer.”

Harry Beaver, the director of public relations at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island, said the expo was a great way to connect with veterans.

“I really enjoy doing this,” he said. “I meet veterans that don’t even know we exist. I tell them to come in, check us out and take a look around. It’s free and tells the story about us and our services.”

For Richard and Norma Long of Titusville, attending the expo was both educational and fun.

“I’ve never seen Polynesian dancers,” said 81-year-old Richard Long. “I like to see all the exhibits.

For 91-year-old Mary Falanga of Rockledge, the expo is a great place to meet people.

“I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to get out and have a wonderful time.”

You can view more photos from the event here.