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Getting older is a beautiful thing

Bob Ramsey wrote the book “Creating Vital Aging Communities: How You and your Community Can Age Successfully Together” as a free gift to the community. (Photo by Seth Rowe)

BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Getting older is a beautiful thing, and aging societies aren’t something to fear. This is the premise of a new book by St. Louis Park resident Bob Ramsey called, “Creating Vital Aging Communities: How You and Your Community Can Age Successfully Together.” Pub-

lished through the support of two local foundations, Ramsey is currently meeting with local leaders and citizen groups to distribute the free book, raise awareness and ignite conversations. “In recent years I’ve become increasingly involved with issues involving seniors. I write a monthly column on vital aging that evolved to the point I felt compelled to write this book,” said Ramsey.

During the two years he spent working on the project, he hoped to engage local foundations to publish the book and in turn give it away. Park Nicollet Foundation and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis came on board, and together made the project a reality. “We printed 500 copies, so we are strategic about how we disperse them,” Ramsey said. “Each book has a note at-

tached urging the reader to pass it along to someone else when they are finished.” Readers will find Ramsey’s work is actually two books in one. Book One looks at the individual, redefining what it means to be “old.” “They aren’t just taking longer to die. They want to live, to remain active, inRAMSEY - TO PAGE 4


Page 2 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, October 17, 2013

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Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, October 17, 2013 Page 3

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Ombudsmen: making sure seniors’ voices are heard BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER The Swedish word “ombudsman” may not be familiar to everyone, but to seniors living in long-term care, it means friend, sounding board, advocate and hero. Ombudsmen like Sally Schoephoerster and James Dostal spend their days out in the community ensuring those receiving long-term care services have their voices heard. “Every state has a program. We work with people in nursing homes, assisted living, home care, anyone who receives long-term care services,” said Dostal, who covers the west metro area, Scott and McLeod counties for the Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, a program of the Minnesota Board on Aging. “We serve as an advocate for the residents. We are impartial. We listen to both sides of an issue and try to find a resolution.” The 62-year-old went back to school late in life to earn a degree in gerontology. He began with the department 13 years ago and feels it is a great fit for him. “It’s more than a job. It’s a part of who I am,” he said. “For me, it’s a job that has a purpose and a value for others. That makes it a great position to be in. People can feel lost and forgotten, powerless over what goes on – where

they are at, their illness. To be able to make a difference in someone’s life is why I do it.” Dostal holds a paid position in the program, but adds that a number of volunteer positions are available to those who would like to advocate for others. “Volunteers can go to nursing homes on a weekly basis and get to know the residents, get them to open up, and help to find solutions,” said Dostal. “There are a number of volunteers out there who have done it for a long time. It becomes part of who you are.” Schoephoerster has also been an ombudsman for 13 years and covers north and northwest Hennepin County. “Growing up in a family with an elder living with us, I felt comfortable in that environment,” she said. “I have a background working in gerontology, so it seemed like a natural direction for me.” Empowering her clients through education is what Schoephoerster likes best about the job. “I like to educate consumers. They should be knowledgeable about the rules that govern service providers,” she said. To be an ombudsman also means that you’re always working to make the system better. “We are the ones in there fighting for consumers. Addressing systemic issues is part of our advocacy,” said Dostal.

Photo illustration His advice to those entering into long-term care is simple: realize you are not powerless, take care in making decisions that will affect you legally down the road, read your contracts in assisted living and nursing homes, know what you’re getting yourself into, and don’t be afraid to speak up. Although ombudsmen don’t get involved on the financial side of longterm care, they ensure all clients are treated equally. “Whether you’re paying for long-term care privately or through public programs, you should get the same quality of service. We’re about the quality of care rather than how to pay for it,” he said.

Ombudsmen handle complaints and problems relating to: quality care and services; quality of life; rights violations; access to services; service termination; discharge or eviction; and public benefit programs. Ombudsmen serve residents of nursing homes, boarding care homes, assisted living facilities and those receiving home care services; those receiving Medicare benefits with hospital access or discharge concerns, and anyone seeking consultation about long-term care services. For more information on services and volunteer opportunities with the Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, call 1-800-657-3591. All ombudsman services are free of charge to seniors.


Page 4 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ramsey FROM PAGE 1 volved, have purpose and leave a legacy,” he said. “I’m interested in helping people realize their potential, those playing the back nine of life and winning it.” Book Two focuses on aging communities. “Some view this as a catastrophe, pending gloom and doom. They are worried we’re going to break the bank, wreck the health care system,” said Ramsey. “I’m convinced that’s not the whole story. There’s another scenario.” He describes assets and advantages provided by the older generation and how to direct them into growing the health and wealth of the entire community. “Historically, the older generations haven’t expected much or gotten much. We’ve marginalized them and let them be spectators,” he said. “There’s a lot more resistance to that now. Winning communities of the future will view aging populations not as a problem or a drain, but as an asset that can partner with the community to make a better future.” Ramsey encourages individuals and

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communities to “re-educate themselves about aging; to overcome ageism; start building assets in seniors; accept some caregiving functions; address basic issues of health, housing and transportation; reinvent and re-energize the traditional ‘senior center’; provide adequate safe havens, safety nets, opportunities and outlets for older adults; and build on existing success stories.” Annette Sandler, director of Aging and Disability Services for Jewish Family and Children Services, sees Ramsey’s book as already inspiring change. “It’s an amazing book. I know of nursing homes and assisted living centers that are using it for study sessions with their staffs,” she said. “Both halves of the book are interesting and impactful. It begins the conversation about how communities become vital communities.” Ramsey served as associate superintendent of schools in St. Louis Park from 1969-1993. He has authored 30 professional books and contributes a column on vital aging in Sun Sailor newspaper. Ramsey received the “Outstanding Citizen Award” from the city of St. Louis Park this year. To contact Ramsey, email joyrammini@comcast.net. Photo illustration

So much is changing the way we think about work and age. People are thinking differently about retirement and many want to stay in the work force or transition into part-time work. Older workers are capable, experienced and mature. Your talents are appreciated and your contribution and skills are critical to Minnesota’s economy. Call the Senior LinkAge Line® A One Stop Shop for Minnesota Seniors at 1-800-333-2433 now for help to START your journey as a mature worker.


Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, October 17, 2013 Page 5

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1-800-333-2433 Senior LinkAge Line is a free, statewide service for seniors, baby boomers, Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers and those trying to reduce prescription drug costs BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Julie Van Name is a nurse who never thought much about Medicare or prescription “donut holes.” The 55-year-old had health insurance through her work and no medical problems. All that changed suddenly when an autoimmune disease attacked her lungs, muscles and joints. She went from zero medications to 56 in the blink of an eye. “In a day I had this life-changing illness and needed all this help. I didn’t have time to prepare,” said Van Name. After going on disability, she received a notice that she was eligible for Medicare. Because she already had coverage, she declined Medicare, not realizing that she would soon be automatically dropped from her company’s policy. The result was a period of time that Van Name was uninsured. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t afford to pay for my oxygen,” she said. That’s when Van Name learned about the Senior LinkAge Line, Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging’s free statewide information and assistance service covering all 87 counties of Minnesota. Loudi Rivamonte, recreation supervisor for Eagan, sees firsthand how often Senior LinkAge Line helps people like Van Name deal with difficult situations. “It is a great program, and I know from touching base with many of the seniors who have participated in counseling appointments, a vital service. The counselors spend one hour of face to face time with the senior and many times their family members and caregivers to help them navigate the benefits of Medicare. Having a neutral party to offer guidance through a sometimes complicated journey through the healthcare world is

quite a benefit,” she said. Michele Starkey, coordinator for the Burnsville Senior Center, agrees. “With the variety of calls and inquiries we get on a daily basis, it’s nice to have a central contact where people can get the help they need.” For Van Name, that help came from a Senior LinkAge Line volunteer named Julie. “I learned that if you don’t sign up correctly with Medicare the first time, you can be subject to a penalty,” she said. “It can be costly. They helped me through it. That was the first step. She told me next, I’d need help with prescriptions and deductibles. She started talking about donut holes, catastrophic coverage. I was so overwhelmed.” Van Name considered herself an educated person, but felt ill-equipped to climb the mountain before her alone. Not only did Julie from Senior LinkAge Line walk her through each step of the process, she also followed up along the way even after Van Name was referred to a local Senior LinkAge Line volunteer named Sally. “Sally was an extension of Julie,” said Van Name. “She was so knowledgeable. That first day, she spent two hours with me.” Sally went over the basics of Medicare Parts A and B. She explained how supplemental plans worked, and what her options were based on the medications she needed. “They weren’t telling me what to do. They showed me the differences. It was so easy to make a mistake that might have cost me a few thousand (dollars) a year,” she said. One of the biggest problems for Van Name was a coverage gap on her prescriptions.

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BY RHONDA WHITENACK AND JIM CZECHOWICZ If you are disabled and you’re no longer able to work, you should learn how Social Security can help you. Disability is something most people do not like to think about. However, the unfortunate reality is this: the chances that you will become disabled are probably far greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a more than one in four chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. Social Security pays benefits to people with disabilities through the Social Security disability insurance program, which is financed by Social Security taxes. If you qualify, you can receive a monthly disability benefit from Social Security for as long as your disability keeps you from working. The amount of your benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings. Potential Medicare coverage is dependent on several factors and usually starts after you receive disability cash benefits for 24 months. When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits. The number of credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age, and some of the work must be recent. For example, if you become disabled after age 31, you need to have worked at least a total of 10 years, including five of those having been worked within the past 10 years. But if you become disabled before age 24, you need only one and a half years of work in the past three years. If you have a disability that keeps you from working, the time to get started

with your application is now. That’s because it takes time to determine whether you qualify for benefits. It usually takes about three to five months for a medical decision from the state agency that evaluates your condition. If your application is approved, your first Social Security disability payment will be made for the sixth full months after the date we determine that your disability began. Given the time it can take, it’s in your best interest to do everything you can to speed up the process. The best first step is for you to read our online publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. It will tell you all about the process, including the information you will need to apply for benefits. Then, take advantage of our online disability starter kits. You will find them on our disability website at www. socialsecurity. g ov / d i s ab i l ity. From that page, simply select the option to apply for benefits online, and on that page you will find the disability starter kits. There is one kit for children and one for adults. Each kit is available in both English and Spanish. The starter kits help you begin the process by providing information about the specific documents and the information that we will request from you. Take a look at the disability starter kit now at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. Once you complete the online disability starter kit and you’re ready to apply, the most convenient way to do that is also online. Just go to the same disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. The writers are with Social Security public affairs in Bloomington and St. Paul.


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Living life with passion and a sense of rhythm Cyril Paul teaches circle drumming on Tuesdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Richfield Elementary. (Photo by Mike Hanks) BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Bloomington senior Cyril Paul is a peace-loving man who lives to help others with the only currency he possesses – passion, drive and a pervading sense of carnival. Vibrant colors, rhythm and celebration define the 83-year-old’s memories of growing up in Trinidad. Now he uses those things to fight poverty, educate youth, and inspire change. “Poverty is something people shy away from because they don’t know what to do about it,” said Paul, who became involved in the fight against poverty during the Johnson Administration. “Johnson did a great deal and spent a lot of money, but in spite of that, poverty erodes our country.” Paul is an active member of a local organization called Isaiah, a group of congregations, clergy and people of faith working towards racial and economic equality in the state of Minnesota. “We go to legislators and speak for

the poor people in the inner city who are unable to break the threshold, unable to get in a higher level of learning,” he said. Paul knows something about poverty. Growing up in Trinidad, it was a daily reality. However, he describes his childhood as a happy one.

to make a similar impact on his community. While training to qualify for the Olympics as a sprinter, he worked as a policeman in Nassau. However, four years on the job led to disillusionment and a new calling. Paul decided to give up his Olym-

“(Drumming is) a voice, an instrument that can be used to bring people together.” – Cyril Paul “My father was a very wonderful person. He never criticized. Whenever the carnival occurred, he’d be in the middle of the fray breaking up any disagreements,” he said. His father’s example made an impression on Paul, who believed a career as a police officer would give him the chance

pic dreams and pursue a career in the church. A friend he met from Minnesota encouraged him to apply for a scholarship to Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. He followed the suggestion and was accepted with a full scholarship. “I came to Saint John’s to join the

priesthood, but I didn’t like what I saw there,” recalls Paul. “I got an English major instead and started teaching.” Teaching became his true passion. After leaving a post with an inner-city school, Paul traveled around Minnesota bringing his own brand of carnival into schools. “It was a moment of excitement for the kids,” he said. “We would forget the idea of education. We wanted to teach them that life can be beautiful if we make a contribution, and make friends with lots of different people. We taught them to open their minds to new cultures and new ideas.” Paul said that as time passed, money for such educational extras dried up. Looking for a new way to challenge himself and make a positive contribution, he decided to raise money for education by riding a bicycle from Minnesota to California, where his two daughters lived. Although three friends rode part of the way with him, he was on his own DRUMMER - TO PAGE 9


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Van Name ended up selecting one of the cheaper Medigap plans, something she wouldn’t have had the confidence to do without the information provided by FROM PREVIOUS PAGE Senior LinkAge Line. In 2013, once a patient and their plan “They helped make sure I was made have spent $2,970 on covered drugs (the aware of all of my choices so I could combined amount plus your deductible), pick the best option,� she said. “We used they end up in the coverage gap, also all of the information to come up with called the “donut hole.� the best possible plan so I can continue “For me, the donut hole was huge, a receiving care from the exact same phycouple of sicians.� thousand V a n d o l l a r s,� Name is eashe said. I felt like this was something I want to ger to pay The Se- share. It was such a lifesaver. back the nior Linkdebt she Age Line she – Julie Van Name feels counselors owes Senior showed Van LinkAge Name drug Line by volreimbursement plans and grants that unteering her time to become a counwere available to help her. selor like Julie and Sally. “By the time I left, I felt like I knew “I would love to make it easier for all about all different plans. I wasn’t pan- someone. They held my hand and made icked about what would happen when I this process nice and smooth,� she said. hit the donut hole. She prepared me for “I felt like this is something I want to what to do when that happened,� said share. It was such a lifesaver.� Van Name. “She told me to call this clinThe Senior LinkAge Line may be ic for this medication and that clinic for reached by calling 1-800-333-2433. that one. I was able to do that so that the donut hole only cost me about $200.�

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Drummer FROM PAGE 7 once he left Minnesota, except for the aid of his wife, who followed him in a station wagon carrying supplies. The trip took 41 days and raised approximately $18,000 through two fundraising events. One was hosted by a friend in Arizona and the other was hosted by his daughter at the end of the journey. “The main reason I did it was to do something to pay back what I’ve been given. I’m a poor person from Trinidad. All I can do is use my talents and skills to make a difference,” said Paul. These days, Paul’s message and desire to teach resonates through the drum. He leads a circle drumming class on Tuesdays at Richfield Elementary. “It’s a voice, an instrument that can be used to bring people together,” he said. He especially likes to see seniors join his group. “They think, ‘I’m old. What can I do?’ But they can come to class and learn the specific rhythm patterns that allows their own rhythm to explode.” Paul made a big impression on Bill

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Jennings, an instructor with RichfieldBloomington Community Education, as Paul took one of his computer courses. “While talking with Cyril during the course breaks, I discovered that he was quite accomplished intellectually, but I was equally impressed by his vitality and sense of humor. He mentioned talents as a singer and musician, and I decided to recruit him to become involved as an instructor with Community Education,” said Jennings. Whether teaching the young or old, Paul believes helping others realize their full potential is his true calling. “I want to get into classrooms and inspire people. I see so many lives kind of wasted, like pieces of straw in a river floating to Valhalla. I want to use all the energy I have to make life a little better,” he said. In 2000, Isaiah formed through the merger of three independent congregation based community organizations: Great River Interfaith Partnership (GRIP) in the St. Cloud area; Interfaith Action in Greater Minneapolis; and St. Paul Ecumenical Alliance of Congregations (SPEAC) in Greater St. Paul. For more information, go to www. isaiahmn.org. You may contact Paul by emailing cyrilandpampaul@aol.com.


Page 10 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, October 17, 2013

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Medicare annual enrollment period opens this month BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER This October, Medicare’s annual open enrollment period coincides with the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s state-level, health insurance marketplace, leaving many seniors unsure about how the changes will impact them. “The question I get from those who are about to go on Medicare, or are on Medicare and considering changing plans, is ‘How does Obamacare affect Medicare?’” said Darwin Klockers, a Medicare counselor with Senior Community Services (SCS) who services the Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center areas. “It is a very simple answer. There is no impact other than some changes in the Part D Prescription Drug Program that make the coverage more affordable, primarily by giving them a discount on their prescriptions when they go into the donut hole.” Deb Taylor, chief operating officer of Senior Community Services, believes miscommunication has made some seniors fearful of changes from Obamacare, which is more officially known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “There is a lot of confusion about the Affordable Healthcare Act and Medicare,” Taylor said. “Basically, there will not be enrollment changes for Medicare beneficiaries as they will continue to have their annual review time to enroll in a Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. That coverage would be effective in January 2014.” As a result of the ACA, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, all U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to have health insurance coverage. For those who are not on Medicare or hold health insurance through work, insurance may be purchased through their state’s health insurance marketplace. For Minnesotans, that one-stop shop is MNsure. Michele Kimball, director of AARP Minnesota, spends a good deal of time these days speaking to seniors about the ACA and MNsure. “The most common question I get from those over 65 is, ‘Do I need to worry about MNsure?’ The answer is no,” said Kimball. “Medicare beneficiaries are hearing so much about new health care exchange, and there’s a lot of misinformation.”

Photo illustration She stresses that MNsure is not replacing Medicare. MNsure will not sell Advantage plans (also called Medigap plans), and the ACA will not be cutting Medicare benefits to pay for coverage for the uninsured. What it will do is help seniors who have not reached Medicare age yet, or who have had trouble purchasing insurance because of preexisting conditions or cost-prohibitive premiums.

“Minnesotans’ buying power will go further on MNsure. The premiums of plans on MNsure are the lowest in the country, and individuals may be eligible for financial assistance to help pay their premiums,” said Jenni BowringMcDonough, media relations coordinator for MNsure. “Individuals can only get this financial help to pay premiums through MNsure. Some may even quali-

fy for a no-cost plan.” The ACA plans to strengthen and improve Medicare through free preventative care that no longer requires a copay, along with the gradual closing of the prescription drug donut hole, which will formally close in 2020. The ACA is also projected to save the Medicare program $500 billion over 10 years through greater efficiencies and resources to fight fraud, waste and abuse. “That savings will be used to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund an additional two years beyond its current solvency,” she said. Some comprehensive advantage plan holders may see a decrease in extras, such as dental and eye coverage, because of the ACA. Kimball explained that when Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which originated the Part C Advantage Plans, they decided to incentivize private companies to jump into the market by enhancing reimbursements up to 115 percent for services provided to beneficiaries. This stimulus was intended to last for two years. However, companies are still receiving this benefit 16 years later, something the ACA will end. “We’re going back to reimbursing 100 percent. Because of this, some advantage plans won’t be able to provide extras,” said Kimball. Kimball believes that much of the current health care confusion may be attributed to the slow implementation of the program. “Provisions of the ACA are gradual, not in full effect, so people are not realizing the benefits. I promise by 2016, the rhetoric will have died down,” said Kimball. On Oct. 25, Kimball will give the Keynote Address entitled “Health Care Law and You” at the Key Community Partner Awards hosted by Senior Community Services, which recognizes the effort and impact recipients have had on seniors in their communities. Tickets for the Key Community Partner Awards may be purchased by calling 952-767-7899. For more information about SCS, or if you have questions regarding Medicare, or the ACA , go to www.seniorcommunity.org. For more information about MNsure, go to www. mnsure.org.


Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, October 17, 2013 Page 11

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