SHIRLEY -- Selectmen at their meeting Monday night authorized use of the town's MART van to shuttle seniors to the Senior Medical Fair, coming up on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Ayer-Shirley Regional Middle School.

The special OK was needed because weekend use extends the van schedule beyond normal business hours, Council on Aging Director John Oelfke said.

With the signed authorization sent to MART, the regional transit authority will pay for the van and driver, but because it's a Shirley driver rather than a driver hired in-house, there's no overtime involved and the only cost borne by the town will be a percentage of the gas, Oelfke said.

A second van will be rented, paid for with grant money.

The two vans will shuttle seniors back and forth on an all-day schedule between the event venue and senior housing locations, with additional pickups and drop-offs as needed.

Oelfke also used his time at the table -- and on camera -- to tell selectmen and the public what the medical fair is all about. Free and open to all, the focus is on seniors.

"Seniors have a lot of questions" about Medicare and about disabling diseases they might face as they age, such as Alzheimer's and diabetes, as well as questions about rehabilitation options and long-term care, Oelfke said, and senior medical fairs like this one present an opportunity to answer those questions, all at once and all in one place.


"It's one-stop shopping," and the first ever held here, he said.

The event -- including a continental breakfast and perhaps a boxed lunch -- will be paid for with a combination of three grants previously secured for senior programs, Oelfke told the board, and it promises to be quite comprehensive, with a lineup of 30 vendors, five speakers and The Lions Club eyemobile.

And the roster has room to grow. Organizers would like to add demonstrations, for example, such as massage and tae kwon do.

"We're still working on it," Oelfke said.

Asked about turnout, Oelfke said a "good crowd" is anticipated, based on previous medical fairs held in the area that have drawn hundreds of visitors.

"This is regional," he added, with invitations sent out to other councils on aging in surrounding towns.

As the date draws near, Oelfke plans to step up publicity, he said, with ads in local papers and via the monthly COA newsletter and Cable TV.