SoFIA Annual Symposium Offered Constructive Solutions to Challenges Created by the Pandemic

National, state and local experts shared views and resources

During a time when older adults and those that care for them are at high risk from COVID-19, the South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA) held its annual Aging in South Florida Symposium, presented by AARP, virtually to ensure the safe participation and maximum engagement of older adults and the community throughout South Florida.

“This year it was particularly important for our aging community and local resource organizations to come together in a safe way to collaborate, develop and implement timely solutions to issues facing older adults, especially in the face of COVID,” said Nikki Austin-Shipp, president and CEO of SoFIA. “We need to do much more for our older adults in terms of employment, diversity and healthcare and SoFIA’s symposium is a means to bring together our vast resources to help move these issues forward.”

Attended by elected officials, senior-facing organizations, business leaders and the community at-large, the symposium began with a thought-provoking conversation with Austin-Shipp, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel and Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. The group addressed the many new obstacles older adults and caregivers now face due to COVID-19 and emphasized the need for strong leadership and more quality senior programs to ensure that older individuals throughout South Florida’s communities have a voice.

The virtual event allowed participants to explore topics that were most important to them, ranging from age-friendly work environments and caregiving for veterans to inclusive care for LGBTQ older adults. Fostering entrepreneurship among retirees and bridging the generation gap to reduce isolation and promote mentorship were also popular topics.

Among the notable panelists were: Allen Zhou, Anthony Zhou and Aditi Merchant founders of Big & Mini; Cathy F. Bowers, president of the National Patient Advocate Foundation; Bill Gross, assistant director of special programs at SAGE; Elizabeth Isele, founder of The Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship; Peter Kaldes, CEO of the American Society on Aging (ASA); Sandy-Michael McDonald, director of Broward County Office of Economic and Small Business Development (OESBD); Layne Polakoff, curriculum supervisor for Early Learning Language Acquisition, Broward County Public Schools; and Sheryl Woods, CEO of YMCA of South Florida.

Sponsors of the symposium included: AARP®, LAN InfoTech, Humana®, Aetna®, Responsive Home Care, Walgreens, Comcast®, Kaufman Rossin, Florida Power & Light (FPL), Silvernest, Friedman Elder Law Department, Chen Senior Medical Center, Belmont Village Senior Living and Dr. Deirdre Satterwhite-Wilson.

SoFIA’s mission is to improve economic and social insights and services to empower people as they age. Please visit to donate or inquire about partnership opportunities.