Larry and Loretta Schlosser, of Culpeper, will celebrate their golden anniversary next week—theirs is a bond that has withstood many hurdles.
In their 50 years together, the couple has endured health and sickness, including Larry losing both of his feet in 2011 due to diabetes. The past three years, Linda, a breast cancer survivor, in addition to being a wife, has been her husband’s full-time caretaker. Larry lives with dementia.
“What keeps me going is taking those vows,” said Mrs. Schlosser, 73. “That was our wedding theme—forever yours.”
The two met in Kenosha, Wisconsin through his sister. Three months later, they wed.
“I told my sister, ‘I’m going to marry that lady.’ We’re still going strong,” said 79-year-old Mr. Schlosser, a retired federal worker, seated in a wheelchair.
The Schlossers were among more than 500 people who packed the conference center at the Germanna Daniel Technology Center on Tuesday for the 7th Annual Art of Aging Expo sponsored by the five-county nonprofit Aging Together. The Schlossers attended at the suggestion of friends at the Memory Café, a meeting for caregivers and memory patients. It meets at 2:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of the month at Country Cookin' in Culpeper.
Young and old mingled at the event. Some 70 vendors provided information about healthcare, community services, retirement, real estate, hearing aids, investments, religion, law enforcement, education and more. Most attendees clutched overflowing bags of giveaways and many received free health screenings, flu shots, massages, document shredding services and eye tests.
“It’s about the Art of Aging positively,” said Aging Together Executive Director Ellen Phipps. “There are so many stigmas associated with aging and negative stereotypes—like older people are frail or sick. We are here to change the way people think about aging.”
By 2030, 25 percent of the region’s population will be over the age of 60, with fastest-growing segment of the community being 75 and older, she said. The Art of Aging Expo seeks to help prepare for that unprecedented growth by connecting people to resources and supporting quality life in the aging process, Phipps said.
“Many older adults are living active and vibrant lives,” she said.
Having access to quality healthcare is a big part of that. At age 65, Americans qualify for Medicare, and yet a large segment of seniors still fall through the cracks in terms of adequate medical coverage, Phipps said. For the five-county area, Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services helps fill in those gaps.
Aging Together Vice Chairman Ray Parks is director of aging services and transportation for community services. He said open enrollment for the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Part D) would be held locally starting Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
“We provide unbiased insurance counseling that is free,” Parks said, noting the agency maintains local statistics about insurance premium discounts. “It’s about quarter-million dollars a year we help them save on medical costs.” Seniors interested in signing up for the insurance counseling can call 540/825-3100 and ask for the support coordinator for their county.
Former Washington Redskins defensive back Mike Nelms attended Tuesday’s Expo as he has in the past, connecting with seniors about good health and letting them try on his Super Bowl rings. Asked about the art of aging, the 64-year-old onetime pro athlete had specific advice.
“It involves knowing your body, listening to your body and acting accordingly,” Nelms said.
He mentioned his own experience of weight gain from simply eating too much, including too much sugar. It made Nelms feel lousy so he decreased his caloric intake and stopped drinking soda.
“I won’t touch soda anymore. I love it, but it doesn’t love me. It made my joints hurt,” he said. “I got to the point now where I can drink unsweetened tea and I love that.”
For exercise, Nelms golfs and plays tennis.
Expo attendees Ron and Barbara Leathers stay active in the normal course of their married life.
“We so something every day—that is key,” said 70-year-old Ron Leathers, retired from IBM and Farm Credit. “I like watching TV, but I don’t’ stay in the house.”
He still helps out on the family hay farm operation in Elkwood. Barbara Leathers, 65, is retired from SWIFT. She keeps busy through civic involvement with the Brandy Station VFD Auxiliary, Remington Homemakers’ Club and the Madison GOP Club.
The couple has attended the Expo for the past several years for the valuable resources and community links. The Art of Aging is, “Taking care of yourself,” Mrs. Leathers said. “They have so much information on how to prepare for living longer. You will probably need some services.”
Middle-aged and young people attended the Expo as well, including 23-year-old Allie Tanner, who works as an occupational therapy assistant at Culpeper Health & Rehab. She recently received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Christopher Newport University and then went back to school for occupational therapy.
The Fredericksburg resident will graduate in November with an associates’ degree in the field from Eastern Virginia Career College. On Tuesday, she was on site at the Daniel Center testing hand strength with a gripper.
“I always wanted to do occupational therapy,” Tanner said. “I like it because you are helping people in everyday life relearn the skills that they couldn’t do prior. It’s very rewarding.”
Expo attendee O’vivian Williams, of Culpeper, showed up for the event for the social aspect.
“I think it is great,” she said. “You get to meet so many different people with so much to offer.”
From 2006 to 2016, the population age 65 and older increased from 37.2 million 49.2 million and is projected to almost double to 98 million in 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.