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Senior Connection to Open Clinic Offering Free Vision and Hearing Screenings
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Wednesday, July 13, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Dr. Joseph Fastow turned the knob on a blue door in Ketchum’s Lupine Building, offering a sneak peek at a cause that has consumed him for three years.

On Thursday he will open the door again—this time for an Open House for the new Senior Connection Vision and Hearing Center. And, with that, he and the Senior Connection will usher in a new era of free, proximate vision and hearing screening for Wood River Valley seniors.

“By age 70, eighty percent of people have some degree of hearing loss. By 75 it’s interfering with daily activities,” said Fastow.  “And many of our seniors risk losing vision because they don’t get diagnosed and treated for eye disease. Those with diabetic retinopathy usually don’t come to attention of doctors until the damage has been done. We’re trying to help people before that happens.”

The Open House will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14, at 220 Second Avenue South (Second and River streets), Suite 101. There’ll be refreshments and tours. And a short program and raffle drawing will be held at 5:15 p.m.

The clinic will open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays later this month.  Handicapped parking is in the back of the building, and the clinic itself is on the ground level.

Those wishing appointments should do so through the Senior Connection website at https://seniorconnectionidaho.org.

Fastow saw the need to provide such services after he joined the board of the Senior Connection a few years ago. Sight and hearing are critical for quality of life, he said, and diseases like age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are often treatable if caught early.

The need will only grow, he added.

“We are a community of seniors and burgeoning seniors. Seniors make up a third of the population in the Wood River Valley, including second homeowners, and that percentage is expected to grow in the next few years.”

Hearing and vision screenings at the clinic will be offered free of charge to those over 60 years of age, as well as those with diabetes no matter what the age. Nearly a quarter of Blaine County’s population is Hispanic, Fastow noted, and they have the highest incidence of diabetes of any ethnic group in the United States except for Native Americans.

The ophthalmology suite features a scanner and innovative software that will allow technicians to forward the scans to board certified retinal specialists Jennifer Olbum and Jeffrey Stevens, who will read the screenings remotely.

The hearing screenings will take place in another section of the clinic.Greg Schroeder, who runs the Hearing Life clinic in Hailey, will serve as a consultant as needed. The Senior Connection recently started collecting and refurbishing used hearing aids for those who can’t afford them.

Technicians include three I Have a Dream Foundation graduates who are interested in pursuing nursing degrees and have been trained for this task.  They will be under the direction of the clinic’s director Sharla Smith.

The clinic was made possible by several generous donors who wanted to improve the quality of life for those in the Wood River Valley. Among them, a benefactor who donated the office space and another who purchased the equipment.

Fastow said he hopes the free service will enable older adults in the valley to get what they need so they can live more robust lives.

“We just hope this will help people realize that the Senior Connection truly is so much more than lunch,” he said.

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