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The two-day 2013 Age & Disabilities Odyssey conference concluded in Duluth June 18 with a record-breaking 1,300 registrants, more than 80 exhibitors and speakers covering topics ranging from successes of the 2013 legislative session to the importance of positive, daily affirmations. The conference included 127 concurrent sessions on issues facing people with disabilities, aging Minnesotans and the caregivers and services that support them.
A special feature this year was the Why Treaties Matter exhibit, which explores the relationships between the Dakota and Ojibwe Indian Nations and the U.S. government in the area that is now Minnesota.
Keynote speaker Gil Penalosa challenged attendees to promote safe bike lanes and walkways in their communities to get people out of their cars and moving.
Penalosa, executive director of a Canada-based organization that advises decision makers on creating healthy communities for people of all ages, said one in three cancer deaths are related to obesity and/or lack of exercise. A person’s lifespan can be predicted by their ZIP code, he said, with healthier individuals living in areas with parks, good designs for pedestrians and cyclists and fewer convenience stores.
Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson spoke about 2013 legislation that helps position Minnesota for a historic time in the nation’s health care system. While she said the changes are positive, Jesson acknowledged they will bring challenging work, especially following years of budget reductions.
“That is why it is so important that you are taking this time to learn more about the work ahead and to share your ideas,” she told the audience, primarily composed of county and state human services workers and private providers. “Great things are accomplished only by many people like each of you working, sometimes very hard, together.”
Attendees were also welcomed by Duluth Mayor Don Ness, Minnesota Board on Aging Chair Don Samuelson and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Prettner Solon, a native of Duluth, highlighted her involvement in the Senior LinkAge Line® One Stop Shop for Minnesota Seniors and the Own Your Future initiative, which encourages Minnesotans to plan for their long-term care.
The conference is co-sponsored by DHS and the Minnesota Board on Aging. The next conference is planned for the summer of 2015.
Editor’s note: The Why Treaties Matter exhibit is a collaboration of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Humanities Center and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. This project is funded in part with money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that was created with a vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008, and The Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation.
Photo caption (top right): Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, left, talks to Odyssey exhibitors Hassan Hussein, center, executive director of the Oromo Community, and Mustafa Hassan, African Immigrant Community Services. Both organizations are recipients of DHS Community Service/Service Development grants.
Photo caption (middle left): Tony Fish performed as the Cedar Creek Drum Group and dancers opened the Odyssey conference luncheon session.