A clarion call! How and why to stay active
Few things in life are more important than good health. Here are a few common-sense actions you can take to stay healthy during the late winter season. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Get a flu shot. Stay active. These are helpful reminders for older adults who are particularly vulnerable to illness and injury in the colder months.
And few things are more essential to your health than physical activity. So move your health and well-being up a few notches by developing a more active mind-set. The benefits can enrich every area of your life - slimming down, gaining strength, relieving stress and having more energy. Most importantly, physical activity can help protect you against cancer and other chronic health problems like heart disease and Type II diabetes. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning a new program of exercise or when increasing the intensity of the exercise you already do.
If you identify physical activity with sports and exercise, you're seeing only part of the picture. Physical activity also includes the daily activities of life and occupation that keep your body moving and expend energy. If you are not sitting, lying, or standing still, you are probably involved in physical activity. The goal is getting enough activity on a regular basis to achieve health-enhancing rewards. You can reach this goal with activities as simple as a brisk walk around the block, as enjoyable as dancing or as productive as time spent working in the yard.
There are benefits for everyone - young or old, nimble or not - even for those who are self-proclaimed couch potatoes.
(by Joan Uzelak)
Seniors and Medicare
In some Congressman's dream of the future in 1965, everyone would be happily employed until age 65, when they could collect retirement and get health care coverage through Medicare. But many people have to stop working before they are eligible for Medicare, or otherwise lose their health insurance coverage. While health care reform promises improved options for health care coverage, it is not here yet, and even in the future, there are likely to be coverage gaps.
Seniors not eligible for Medicare and who don't have health insurance through an employer can theoretically purchase private health insurance. However, an insurance premium for a person over 55 can cost anywhere from $300 to more than $1,000 a month. Choosing a high deductable, or catastrophic plan will yield lower premiums. If a person has a pre-existing health condition, it may be impossible to get coverage to treat that condition for nine months, but one might get some interim coverage through the Pre-Existing Insurance plan. A person may also be denied health insurance entirely, so may have to wait and apply to the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP). All of this will change somewhat in 2014 when the Washington Health Benefit Exchange becomes available.
As an alternative to paying for expensive insurance plans, one can get regular checkups and acute care at a medical clinic on a sliding-scale fee based on income. HealthPoint Community Health Centers, Neighborcare Health and SeaMar are some examples; in some cases, dental and mental health services are also offered. The Rotacare Clinics in Lake City, Renton and Bellevue are free, using volunteer staff. The options have become more limited, and some sites only take new patients under age 18, with a few exceptions. Another option is using "direct health care practices" that charge a set monthly fee and thus there are no extra charges for primary health care. This can be a good deal for those who have frequent, routine office visits.
Medications can be purchased at a discount by using the Washington Prescription Drug Program, through a mail order pharmacy, discount plan, or patient assistance program if income-qualified and one exists for a particular medication. Emergency illnesses and injuries requiring hospitalization and even surgery may be covered by applying for charity care if income-qualified.
Many people ask about Medicaid. It can cover families with minor children, blind or disabled individuals and seniors 65 and over with very limited resources, but it leaves out non-disabled seniors under 65. For those over the SSI income level (currently $702 month), the Medically Needy Medicaid program can be an option and works similarly to meeting a deductible; one submits receipts of medical bills to DSHS and once the "spend-down" is met, coverage will begin for subsequent bills for the coming three or six-month period.
There are also some special health benefits for Native Americans, veterans, those with certain major illnesses and also grants that women can apply to, to cover health insurance premiums and care through Washington Women in Need.
For more information and counseling on health insurance options, contact the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA).
(by Alain Rhone)
Women and Social Security
The Social Security program treats all workers - men and women - exactly the same in terms of the benefits they can receive. But women may want to familiarize themselves with what the program means to them in their particular circumstances. Understanding the benefits may mean the difference between living more comfortably versus just getting by in retirement.
Social Security plays a vital role in the lives of women. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income. With the national average life expectancy for women in the United States rising, many women will have decades to enjoy retirement.
Women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68 percent of beneficiaries age 85 and older. Today the average life expectancy of a 65-year-old woman is age 85. As a result, experts generally agree that if women want to ensure that their retirement years are comfortable, they need to plan early and wisely. In 2010, for unmarried women - including widows - age 65 and older, Social Security comprises 49 percent of their total income. In contrast, Social Security benefits comprise only 37 percent of unmarried elderly men's income and only 32 percent of elderly couples' income.
What you can do
The best place to begin is by knowing what you can expect to receive from Social Security, and how much more you are likely to need. You can start with a visit to Social Security's Retirement Estimator. There, in just a few minutes, you can get a personalized, instant estimate of your retirement benefits. You should also visit Social Security's financial planning Web site. It provides detailed information about how marriage, widowhood, divorce, self-employment, government service, and other life or career events can affect your Social Security.
If you want more information about the role of Social Security in women's lives today, Social Security also has a booklet that you may find useful. It is called Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know.
(by Kirk Larson, Social Security Western Washington)
Changing careers: what do you want to do?
At the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens Employment Resource Center, we see many people each week who have been unemployed for months, if not years, as a result of the financial meltdown of 2008. When asked if they want to look for same kind of work they have done in the past, a surprising number of people answer "No."
Changing careers late in life can be one of the most rewarding things a person can do, especially if they have spent 10 or more years doing work that they never really chose, but fell into, or jobs they took because the work was readily available.
As is the case with any goal a person sets, it is important to know what you are trying to accomplish before you start. Older people considering career changes need to spend the time to make sure you know where you want to go before taking action. If you don't have a clear idea of the kinds of careers that may interest you, or if you are fuzzy about what it is you enjoy doing, you may want to take a step back, and take time to assess your skills and strengths, and to find your true passion.
One way to determine what it is that drives you is to take the Dependable Strengths Assessment. In the late 1940s the U.S. government hired Barnard Haldane to devise a way to help returning GIs who were looking for work. He developed job searchtechniques that job counselors and employment specialists still teach today. You may be familiar with the book, What Color is Your Parachute, written by a Haldane protégé. Haldane developed a process to help people to determine what their basic strengths are - the things that people do well and enjoy - to help them to discover the kind of work they can feel good, even passionate, about doing. If you have found yourself out of work after many years of steady employment, and you feel unsure about the direction you want to take, you may want to learn more about Dependable Strengths. Also very useful is the WOIS/Career Information System.
(by Paul Valenti)
Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens Coffee HoursThursday, March 21
Speaker: Dannette R. Smith, Seattle Human Services Department Director
Time: 10-11 a.m.
Location: Central Building, 810 3rd Ave., Seattle, 1st fl. conference room
Friday, March 22
Speaker: Jean Mathisen, AARP Washington Fraud Fighter Call Center Project Director
Time: 11 a.m.-noon
Location: Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N 85th St., Seattle
Thursday April 4
Speaker: Jean Mathisen, AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center Coordinator
Time: noon-1 p.m.
Location: Ballard Senior Center, 5429 32nd Ave. NW, Seattle
Thursday, April 18
Speaker: Don Jordan, Director, Seattle Animal Shelter
Time: 10-11 a.m.
Location: Central Building, 810 3rd Ave, Seattle, 1st fl. conference room
Wednesday, May 8
Speaker: Alain Rhone, Senior Information and Assistance Advocate
"Little Known Resources: Keeping Your Homes, Wallets, and Bodies Healthier"
Time: 1-2 p.m.
Location: Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 2801 S Jackson St., Seattle
Thursday, May 16
Speaker: John T. Hammarlund, CMS Regional Administrator, on Health Care Reform
Time: 10-11 a.m.
Location: The Armory (formerly Seattle Center House), Room H, 305 Harrison St., Seattle
Annual Downtown Volunteer Fair
Meet representatives from more than 50 social service agencies and charities serving downtown Seattle's poor, homeless and needy neighbors.
Location: Christ Our Hope Catholic Church (206-448-8826)
The Josephinum, 2nd. Ave. & Stewart St., Seattle
Time: 1-4 p.m.
Washington Women in Trades Career Fair
Features apprenticeship and resource information, hands-on demonstrations, workshops and career opportunities.
Location Seattle Center, Fisher Pavilion, 305 Harrison St., /Time: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dannette R. Smith, Director
HSD's mission is to connect people with resources and solutions during times of need so we can all live, learn, work and take part in strong, healthy communities. For more timely or breaking news, visit our blog, Human Interests, or visit our Web site.