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Mainers learn more about life and death planning

The first Maine Senior Guide Successful Aging Expo was held in Freeport on Wednesday. The keynote address highlighted the state's Death With Dignity law.

FREEPORT, Maine — The aging process can bring up a lot of questions for Mainers across the state. It's well-known Maine has the oldest population in the country, so there's an emphasis on helping older people in Vacationland.

Maine Senior Guide began hosting Successful Aging expos about 10 years ago, according to principal Deborah McLean. On Wednesday, the first expo of the fall cycle of events was held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport.

“[The expo helps] people really look at what they want to do as they age and how they can really plan and control their aging," McLean said. “Why should anyone decide how you’re going to age? You should be doing that yourself, and the more you find out, the more you can be an informed resource for yourself.”

The event space was filled with dozens of insurance companies, physical therapists, companies that sell hearing technology, and other industries that ran booths for the expo.

“There are so many resources available for people to live better lives as they age," McLean said.

There were also a number of speakers that covered several aging-related topics. 

Valerie Lovelace was the keynote speaker. Her remarks covered the final stage of our life journey: death.

“It’s only hard to talk about dying until you start talking about it," she said. 

Lovelace is the executive director of Maine Death With Dignity. The Death With Dignity Act was passed into law in Maine in 2019. Maine now joins ten states and Washington D.C. with the law in place.

Credit: NCM

Lovelace said there are multiple qualifications Mainers need to have to have a Death With Dignity.

RELATED: Life after 'Death with Dignity' in Maine

“An individual has to have a terminal disease with a six-month prognosis. This is the same medical model we use for hospice," she added. “They have to be capable of making their own health care decisions. They have to be an adult, they have to be a resident of Maine.”

Medical professionals also need to sign off on a patient's request as another way to make sure the law is protected.

Credit: NCM

Lovelace said the dying process is normal and "it can be beautiful." Lovelace added she's worked with a lot of patients and families through the process and has seen the difference it's made in people's lives.

"The difference it makes in people’s lives, which has been huge for those families and those terminally ill people. And to be able to witness that and be a part of that is profound," she added.

The expo will have two more stops this fall. On Oct. 19, the event will be held in Augusta, and on Nov. 2, the expo heads to Kittery.

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