More than 60 people turned out Wednesday night to get answers to their questions on how to deal with issues involving aging parents or spouses during a town hall meeting at the Salt Lake County Government Center.

Experts from various agencies participated in a panel that answered questions about caring for a parent or spouse medically, legally and emotionally.

From the broad scope of experience on the panel, it was evident throughout the night, just how complex the issue of aging really is.

"This issue requires economists, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, doctors, nurses and lawyers because it takes a team approach, I believe, to deal with this issue," said Scott Wright, director of Gerontology at the University of Utah. "So the biggest challenge is to get all these groups to work together so that we can have successful outcomes."

Questions were answered about health care programs the elderly may benefit from and representatives from the Department of Workforce Services encouraged the elderly who are wondering if they qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, to simply apply.

Advice was also given about the many legal aspects involved with aging, like writing wills, trusts and making important medical decisions. Jilenne Gunther, an attorney who is actively involved at the Utah Division of Aging, said that in Utah, people can write their own wills, but many times hiring a professional to do it for them could end up solving many problems in the future. She also warned those in attendance to be wary of do-it-yourself legal software programs because they can cause problems.

The panel also gave advice on how and when to help the elderly make lifestyle changes, like giving up driving. Their consensus was that it must be done with respect and love, but it cannot be ignored and drug out over a long time, or it may cause a crisis.

"If we can get there early and get education and understanding sooner, I think we will have better outcomes," said Peter Hebertson of Salt Lake County Aging Services.

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The panel mentioned the many city, county and state resources available to help answer questions and encouraged people to make use those services whenever they need help or direction. Nick Zullo, a geriatric counselor, also encouraged the caregivers to get involved in support groups that might help them deal with their stresses and worries.

The meeting was held in conjunction with the ongoing Deseret News series "Gray Area: Utah As It Ages." Before the meeting, there was a reception featuring photographs from the series by Deseret News photographer Laura Seitz.

E-mail: ethomas@desnews.com