The following article was published in the Culpeper Times on April 18, 2019. It can be read online at

Written by Jeff Say

The Culpeper Literacy Council partnered with the Culpeper Wellness Foundation to help teach seniors at the Culpeper Senior Center health literacy.

The eight-week program helped provide health literacy to individuals in the community and then helps train medical professionals to identify behaviors or language barriers for someone lacking health literacy said Leslie Mary, with the Culpeper Literacy Council.

“It gives health literacy to individuals that normally wouldn’t have health literacy,” Maryk said. “It gives them the opportunity to understand medical terminology, current healthcare topics and what’s considered a standard processing practice.”

Taught by Literacy Council member Rita Nickle and Free Clinic of Culpeper volunteer Norma Kaiser, seniors navigated medical terminology and came up with questions to ask their doctors on their next visit.

“They love it, it was one of their favorite programs,” said Culpeper Senior Center coordinator Gladys Williams said. “They did more talking and preparing for this program than the average one that we have.”

The senior center helps set up appointments for seniors, but this has helped them navigate what it means when they are given medicine or certain terms.

“It helped to enlighten them for what was in store in some of the areas they could turn to for help,” Williams said. “They learned a lot of things they didn’t know that was out there for them.”

Betty Edwards beamed with pride when she received her certificate for completing the program. She was one of nine seniors that were honored Monday.

“I learned a lot, it was very exciting,” she said. “A lot of things I learned that I didn’t understand at first when I went to the doctor, by having this I learned some things I should do and shouldn’t do.”

She praised the work of Nickle and Kaiser.

“They broke it down so well because you could understand it easily and if you didn’t you felt free to go back to them and ask questions,” Edwards said. “I have a lot of questions for my doctor this month when I go for my check up.”

Nickle and Kaiser were trained through the College of Mary Washington and were excited to share their knowledge with the seniors.

“When we first knew we would be coming here and knew it would be seniors, I first thought to myself we’re going to have trouble keeping their attention,” Nickle said. “They were so engaged the entire time. Every week they were ready to go.”

Kaiser said the enthusiasm the seniors showed was contagious.

“It was the highlight of the whole two months that we did it, I couldn’t wait to get down here,” Kaiser said. “They are so much fun.”

Kaiser also said that the fact Medicaid expanded, more people are going into the system.

“I don’t think the thirst for learning ever goes away,” Maryk said. “Let’s face it, medical procedures and terminology are changing at a rapid pace.”

Chris Miller, executive director, Culpeper Free Clinic, said that clinic workers are seeing more people who require an understanding of what terms mean.

“It’s part of the whole mission of the Culpeper Wellness Foundation, to help people be as healthy as they can,” she said. “At the Free Clinic we see all the time that we can talk to people at the doctor’s office but if you can’t translate that when you go home, you’re not as healthy as you can be. When literacy contacted us about partnering we said of course.”

Williams said another eight-week course is being offered in the summer.