Over two million people attended the Minnesota State Fair this year – a new record. Minnesota’s senior population is not far behind. By 2030, more than 1.25 million Minnesota adults will be age 65 or older, or more than 25 percent of the adult population.
On Aug. 30, two members of the Face Aging MN team headed to the Minnesota State Fair for Senior Day. We wanted to connect with seniors, policymakers and other fairgoers and hear their thoughts on issues important to seniors and those who care for them.
Who knows, you might have seen us in our bright orange T-shirts! Our shirts, which read, “1 in 4 65+,” sparked many conversations throughout the day. Most people were amazed to learn that by 2030, one in four Minnesota adults will be 65 or older.
Here are some of the highlights of Face Aging MN’s day at the State Fair:
- While waiting for the Outstanding Senior Awards Ceremony to begin at Leinie Lodge, we struck up several conversations, including one with 92-year-old Outstanding Senior Award nominee Dean Ohland and his wife Gloria from Litchfield, who attended the ceremony with 13 of their family members. We also visited with Delores and Manfred Shelstad from Burnsville, who recommended the Fair’s lefse and lingonberries.
- After the Outstanding Senior Awards Ceremony, we met winners Judy Peterson from Grand Rapids and Al Sonnerud from Ham Lake.
In her acceptance speech, Judy said, “I think volunteering is one of the best things you can do as you age. It gives you such a sense of belonging.” Judy is a coordinator for grocery delivery at ElderCircle, a tax prep volunteer with AARP MN, an in-home hospice volunteer, a lunch volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota and serves in other ways.
In his speech, Al praised the volunteers and said nothing would happen without them. Al opened his farm to Bikes 4 Kids, which collects and refurbishes used bikes for kids and people in need. He also serves as a youth mentor, helps provide cars for low-income families and dedicates his time to other causes.
- We visited the Minnesota Senate and Minnesota House booths, where we met Senator Justin Eichorn of District 5 and Representative Dave Baker of 17B. We talked to both Senator Eichorn and Representative Baker about the need to support caregivers and ensure they have opportunities for scholarships and career advancement.
- We also visited the DFL and GOP booths to talk to booth staffers about issues important to seniors, their families and their caregivers. Some said they believe Minnesotans are aware of aging issues, but there is not enough of a sense of urgency for new policies yet, particularly funding laws that prioritize seniors. Others named health care costs and the medication costs as top concerns.
- Next, we stopped by the KARE 11 Health Fair, where we met Lynn Buckley, the Health Care Partnership Director at the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging in Mankato. Lynn was rocking a shirt promoting the Senior LinkAge Line (1-800-333-2433) – Minnesota’s free, “one-stop shop” resource available to seniors and their loved ones for questions on aging.
- Throughout the day, we met many other seniors, including polka dance lover Marlin Sachs of Inver Grove Heights who was in his 69th year attending the State Fair. At the Creative Activities building, we met Jeanne Cur and Virginia Wabbe, sisters and former 4H members who graduated from the University of Minnesota. Another highlight was meeting Mounted Patrol member Marc Asch and his horse, Classic Oak (“Oakie”). Marc’s favorite part of the Fair is watching his horses interact with people in wheelchairs and with kids.
- Later in the afternoon, we visited the Remstad Music Cafe, where we met local senior Evelyn Hansen. Evelyn moved to Minneapolis in the early 1950s to pursue nursing and was hoping to get a chance to ride the Ferris wheel.
- To wrap up the day, we attended the 5 p.m. KARE 11 broadcast and cheered with the rest of the crowd for the seniors selected to hold up the weather signs in honor of Senior Day.
We are glad to have met so many Minnesotans at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. As we continue working to spread awareness about Minnesota’s rapidly growing senior population, it will take all of us – seniors, families, caregivers, policymakers and communities – to ensure seniors have the care and services they need to age well.