Chamber tells plans for senior and retiree expo|[04/27/08]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 27, 2008

Members of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce have tried to think outside the box in coming up with an expo for local seniors, set to take place in May.

“We wanted something that would be fun and informational for seniors, so we aimed to get as many businesses involved as possible that have interests in seniors in retirees,” said Pam Smith, director of retirement development for the chamber. “I don’t think you’re going to see the same kind of exhibitors or attendees as a standard health fair.”

All facets of the community will be represented at the expo, said Smith – from retailers, medical experts and skin care professionals to investment advisers and insurance companies.

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It’s the first time the retirement development committee has organized a fair and expo for seniors, and Smith said she’s been pleasantly surprised with the response from local businesses. The 20-odd booths available for the fair were claimed days after the expo was announced.

“It really exploded, so that tells me this is an important issue to our community,” Smith said.

If you goThe Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce will present a senior and retiree expo from 10 a.m. until noon May 15 at River Region’s West Campus on North Frontage Road. Admission is free.Vicksburg is one of 21 Mississippi Certified Retirement Cities. To qualify, each town must pass a three-month screening process by Hometown Mississippi Retirement, the state’s official retiree attraction program. Vicksburg was given the designation about 10 years ago.

The senior and retiree expo is one of four events the chamber must present for seniors throughout the year to maintain accreditation. Other events include an annual St. Patrick’s Day party for seniors. On July 17, the retirement development committee is planning to follow up May’s expo with a “retiree-to-entrepreneur seminar,” with details to be announced later.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 14.8 percent of Vicksburg’s population was 65 years and older, compared to a 12.1 state figure. Smith said inquiries from seniors outside the area looking to retire in Vicksburg have been high.

“We’ve had over 800 people across the nation, Puerto Rico and Canada who have requested a packet of information in the past 18 months,” she said.

The No. 1 state from which people requested information was Florida, which has one of the highest retiree populations in the nation.

“A lot of retirees are wanting to go back to more rural cities,” said Smith. “They’re tired of the hustle and bustle.”

While requests for information have been successful, Smith admits the chamber has had less success with following up with inquiries to see if the retirees are actually relocating to Vicksburg.

“It’s extremely hard to get a follow-up on all of the packets we send out,” she said. “We have sent out a follow-up survey to most everyone, of which we got back about 65.”

View Seniority Section