Planning for retirement is not all about financial advisement and living wills. It also is about what to do with free time.
The Times Record is planning its first Successful Aging Expo in Fort Smith Oct. 17 at Kay Rodgers Park Expo Center to address a variety of topics for baby boomers and future retirees of Generation X.
"We recognize and see as the population ages, with baby boomers in particular, there was a need for this kind of event to touch on a broad spectrum of issues," Times Record Publisher Tom Stallbaumer said. "There’s so much out there, we need to bring it all together in one place. When we heard about this concept, we felt Fort Smith was the perfect place to do it."
The Fort Smith region has nearly 90,000 people who are 55 or older, and the median age is 41, according to U.S. Census data.
In coordination with Open Sky Sales and Marketing, which has planned several aging expos around the country, the Times Record advertising department is in the process of creating the event. Applications for exhibitors, speakers and sponsors are being accepted to take part in the expo.
Between 1,500 and 1,800 people are expected to attend this inaugural Fort Smith expo in mid-October, and it is intended to be an annual event.
The TR Successful Aging Expo Fort Smith website was launched last week as part of the event’s preparations. Businesses interested in becoming exhibitors and those interested in acting as informational speakers will find contacts at successfulagingfs.com. Or they can call the Times Record advertising department at 785-7726, or write Julie Newman, outside sales manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The expo will be free and open to the public with free parking, free food samples and entertainment.
A list of target categories for exhibitors includes everything from airlines and assisted living homes to casinos, hospitals, department stores and motorcycle dealers. There is also a category for pain management among those for sports retailers, restaurants and solar electric companies.
"It’s all about the lifestyle. It’s about enjoying it and planning for it, and experiencing it," Times Record Advertising Director Bernie Schutz said. "This is meant to celebrate the fact we’re aging, not to worry about it forever. We just have to pay attention to it. Retirement is supposed to be fun, too."
Schutz further poses the questions related to retirement: "Are you ready for it? Are you ready for fun? Do you know how to have fun? And have you planned financially to make sure that you can?"
RV dealers, golf resorts, tour and time share package categories are other targeted vendors.
Health screenings are expected to be a part of the expo. Senior health and physical fitness demonstrations may be a part of the event which will have room for 80 to 90 booths.
"We want it to be a real hands-on sort of a thing where there’s something always going on," Schutz said.
In addition to live music groups, speakers are also being sought to talk about finance and retirement, trust, estates, health care and wellness.
Arkansas Razorback fans may also take notice the event is scheduled during a bye-week on the SEC schedule.
Open Sky Sales and Marketing has helped design and arrange several of these Successful Aging Expos around the country, including one in Las Vegas earlier this year that attracted 15,000 people. Others have been held in San Diego and Colorado Springs.
Fort Smith will be the smallest of the Open Sky/newspaper coordinated expos, but there’s a reason why it is being held in Fort Smith. In the Fort Smith MSA, there are about 290,000 people and 30 percent of those are 55 or older, Schutz said. Another 20 percent to 25 percent of the local population is on the cusp of retirement.
The event is generally geared to feature information on "how to live life to the fullest after 50," the TR Successful Aging website states. Plans are to have 50 or more local and national companies offer free tips. Speakers, who will be vetted by staff organizers, will also cover a variety of topics like health and wellness, retirement, trust, estates and travel to name a few. There is room for 12 to 14 informational speakers.