montana September 2011
the magazine for montanans in their prime
Montanaâ€™s population is increasing in age
lifestyle full-time RV life in Montana
where Montanaâ€™s single seniors are meeting
55 Sept 2011
reinventing retirement population 6
bucket list 28
legal documents 30
navigating the confusion and complications
Montanaâ€™s population is increasing in age
alzheimerâ€™s disease research is ongoing
social activity is as important as physical and mental activity 4
focusing on protection and security
a facebook primer
fishing the Boulder River
making provisions for peace of mind
where Montanaâ€™s single seniors are meeting
multipurposing 40 more than busy work
lifestyle 42 full-time RV life in Montana
the magazine for montanans in their prime
publisher stacey mueller
editor gerry oâ€™brien
sales & jim mcgowan marketing director marketing manager allyn hulteng
regional sales coordinator jacque walawander
art director mike lake graphic designer diann kelly
Montana 55 is a special publication of Lee Enterprisesâ€™ Montana newspapers: the Billings Gazette, Missoulian, Helena Independent Record, Montana Standard and the Ravalli Republic. Copyright 2011. For advertising information contact Jacque Walawander 406-523-5271, 800-366-7193 ext. 271 or email email@example.com www.montana55.com
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THE HEALING POWER OF EXCELLENCE. September 2011
Alzheimerâ€™s disease research is ongoing
by sara groves
Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, is on the rise in Montana.
Alzheimer’s disease is a relatively common disease; every Montanan’s life is touched directly or indirectly by someone with Alzheimer’s
In fact, the number of Montanans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to rise 81 percent between 2000 and 2025. But the reason for the increase has little to do with Alzheimer’s itself. “As the population ages and life expectancy increases, more people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and similar diseases because the risk of dementia increases as age increases,” said Nicole Clark, M.D., a neurologist with St. Peter’s Medical Group in Helena. And indeed, Montana’s population is aging; by 2030, the U.S. Census estimates that over one-quarter of Montana’s citizens will be age 65 and older, which is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after reaching age 65; by the time someone is 85, their risk of developing the disease has reached nearly 50 percent. Unfortunately, science has been unable to explain why age so dramatically increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Scientists have, however, made many advances such as the discovery that the changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s begin in the part of the brain that affects learning, which is why the most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. “Initially, Alzheimer’s is subtle. Initial symptoms may include difficulty remembering the name of a neighbor you’ve known for 20 years, or remembering your son’s birth date,” said Clark. “Then it progresses over several months to difficulty remembering other dates, details of conversations, or trouble finding the right word when speaking.” However, before even the earliest symptoms are detectable, tremendous change has already occurred in the brain, resulting in severe brain damage of those affected by the disease. “Usually people seek a diagnosis when the symptoms impact daily activities or when a caregiver notices significant changes and impairments,” said Clark. “That could be things like the inability to balance the
checkbook anymore, getting lost when driving, or not being able to remember family member’s names.” Current research trends in diagnosing Alzheimer’s include using other techniques besides the documentation of mental decline with the hopes of eventually being able to halt the progress of the disease in individuals. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one of the most promising diagnostic techniques is the use of biological markers (or biomarkers). Biomarkers are reliable predictors and indicators of a disease process and include proteins in blood or spinal fluid, genetic variations or mutations, or brain changes that are detectable by imaging. Besides work on early detection, scientists have also developed a score of treatment options, including drug and non-drug options, for both the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of drugs to treat the memory loss that is associated with Alzheimer’s. As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die, causing the cognitive symptoms of the disease to worsen. While current medications cannot stop the damage that Alzheimer’s causes to the brain, they may help lessen or stabilize the symptoms for a limited time. Its spread leads to increasingly severe symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety and depression; anger, agitation, and aggression; disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time, and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends, and other caregivers; physical or verbal outbursts; and sleep disturbances. Treatment options for Alzheimer’s various symptoms vary and can include drugs, such as those to treat anxiety and depression (symptoms that affect up to 40 percent of Alzheimer’s patients), and non-drug options, like modifying behaviors and environment, to manage symptoms like sleep disturbances and hallucinations. “Alzheimer’s disease is a relatively common disease; every Montanan’s life is touched directly or indirectly by someone with Alzheimer’s,” said Clark. “There is research going on all the time and advancements in treatments. We don’t have a cure yet, but we are making progress.” September 2011 11
social activity is as important as physical and mental activity
by bill speltz
It may start innocently enough with a decision to forego a social function. Maybe a close friend or loving pet passed away and you’d rather be alone. Perhaps a health problem has sapped your energy or a bad day has you feeling blue. Reasons are easy to come up with for seniors who favor isolation. But significant problems arise when it becomes a pattern. Social isolation and its negative effects don’t discriminate based on age. But retired individuals are especially vulnerable. “Most of us connect with people either at our workplace or through our children’s connections,” said Susan Kohler, chief executive officer of Missoula Aging Services. “Those connections keep us from being isolated. “What you see with longevity is friends and people we’re connected with begin to die. There are many ways, regardless of disability, that isolation can happen.” Isolation issues usually don’t come up in the first few years of retirement, Kohler said. There’s too much to do and spousal support is a safeguard. But there is no manual on how we should behave as we age, and boredom has a way of taking hold. Staying active is important not just physically, but mentally. “Men are particularly vulnerable to depression and are the least likely to seek treatment for it,” Kohler said. “When you start to lose interest in everything you liked to do and you’re not substituting with new interests, that’s a red flag. It could be you are depressed and feeling social isolation.” Isolation is especially problematic for seniors living in rural areas. Some move closer to family or to cities where it’s easier to be part of a community and take advantage of health services. Others may not have the means and are
isolation: Social isolation and its negative effects don’t discriminate based on age. But retired individuals are especially vulnerable.
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focusing on protection and security
If you are 55, sitting more or less a decade from retirement, you likely have one big bill hanging out there: insurance.
“The rates just consistently go up for health insurance as you get older,” said Patrick Ossen, agent and owner at Western Montana Insurance. “There’s not really an age for it; it’s just consistent. If you’re not working for an employer it gets pretty expensive, regardless of your health.” If you are working for an employer, rate increases are still possible. And at this stage of your career it makes sense to save while keeping as healthy as you can. Health insurance isn’t the only concern. Robin Peters of State Farm Insurance notes that for many, insuring
the assets acquired to this point is newly important. Life and home insurance remain keys. “Before, you maybe haven’t accumulated those assets. People in their 30s and early 40s are generally broke or in debt. At least I was,” Peters said. “After that you’re looking at accumulating, and then at that point you’re concerned about losing it because of some negligent act: a car accident or something happens at your home.” There is also the investment world, and Brian Salonen, an associate at Guardian Life Insurance, notes a change as people get older. “I don’t know if it’s 55, 60 or 80, but eventually most people should get to a place where their financial world is secure,” said Salonen. “When people
by fritz neighbor have it licked financially, why take one ounce of risk?” Salonen gave as an example an 82-year-old woman who was being charged $2,400 a year to be in the more volatile mutual fund part of the stock market. A better investment, he figures, is a fixed annuity produce. He said 85 percent of his clients are getting a return on their investments. It’s not a lot, but it’s consistent. “We do have some clients who have mutual funds,” Salonen said. “Where we’re the best is being secure and safe. We may not make a lot of money today but we are making money and we’re never going to lose. As we get older we want more protection and more security.” If you own a business and you’re concerned about the rising cost of insurance, do what Ossen does: Shop around. The difference is that Ossen’s niche is finding health coverage providers for his clients. As such, he’ll change
insurance carriers yearly because he’s found if you stay with a provider a second year, the rates almost always go up. This upsets providers, but Ossen points out he isn’t being paid by them – he’s working for his clients. “A few years ago I could sell a 3-year rate guarantee,” Ossen said. “But now almost all of them are 1-year. It’s illegal to raise rates due to claims on an individual (health) policy, but for groups … they can raise it.” Ossen notes that there is a wealth of information about the Affordable Care Act, parts of which have already been implemented, at the website healthcare.gov. One of the major changes has been health reimbursements and preventative benefits. “Every insurance company has to offer preventative benefits (a colonoscopy, for example) with no limit,” Ossen said. “Keep on shopping and use the preventative benefits.”
For people who are trying to selfinsure and can’t because of a previous health problem, there is the Montana Comprehensive Health Association. “Every state has a high-risk pool for people who can’t get insured,” Ossen said. The cost of insurance is a constant concern, but answers are out there. “It’s the same for everyone,” Ossen noted. “But the baby boomers have it tough because they’re ones having more health issues.” Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep on shopping and use the preventative benefits.
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navigating the confusion and complications
Vonnie Donaldson, a Butte senior, used the SHIP counseling available at Area V to help her understand Medicare Part D.
Medicare eligibility is one of the aging Americansâ€™ rites of passage.
Medicare serves as a health insurance for people 65 or older, and those under 65 with certain disabilities or diseases. It is divided into four areas of coverage (see the ABCs and Ds of Medicare sidebar) and is administered by the federal government through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Come 65, seniors gain access to both the coverage and the caveats of Medicare as they look to maintain their health, well being and assets into retirement.
Significant changes in Medicare occurred within the last decade due to the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, namely the addition of Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Along with the addition of prescription benefits, Part D introduced a good dose of confusion into an already complicated system. With latest census reports showing 146,742 seniors over the age of 65 living in Montana, the impact of these changes is substantial. Fortunately, help is available for seniors through the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), Senior and Long Term Care Division, Aging Services Bureau.
by paula j. mcgarvey Through Aging Services, the state works with ten different Area Agencies on Aging to provide seniors across the state with services mandated under the Older Americans Act. One of the most utilized services, the Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), deals primarily with understanding Medicare. SHIP was created in 1992 to assist beneficiaries with the standardization of Medicare Supplemental Insurance and provide expert and objective Medicare information. With Montana projected to rank third in the nation for percentage of people over 65 by 2030, Aging Services program officer Doug Blakely stressed the importance of having such services in place to deal with the needs of Montana’s seniors. “SHIP is one of our state-wide programs that we run that is part of our advocacy programs for seniors. It’s been a very big and growing program,” Blakely said. The free counseling service provides help in understanding Medicare to all Medicare beneficiaries, as well as their families and service providers. Kimme Evermann, Montana SHIP Director said that there are currently approximately 130 SHIP counselors state-wide providing a valuable service. “What I believe is that Medicare beneficiaries, current or coming up, need a place to go that is objective,” she said. With trained SHIP counselors at each of the state’s Area Agencies on
Aging, Evermann said that Montanans have access to free confidential counseling and accurate information within their own regions. “It’s part of their tax dollars at work,” she said. In addition to providing them with help navigating through Medicare eligibility and benefits, Evermann said that SHIP counselors serve as a resource to help those eligible for Medicare access additional resources. “SHIP is about solving problems. We do have a great deal of success in helping people figure it out and go on their way,” she said. Joe Gilboy director of the Area V Agency on Aging, Southwest Montana Aging Services in Butte, said that within Area V, the SHIP program is highly utilized. Area V’s SHIP coordinator, Amy Caliendo, said that she counsels people on Medicare services on a daily basis. Caliendo said that her most frequent concerns cover billing, Medicare coverage, and questions specific to Part D prescription drug coverage. Senior citizen, Vonnie Donaldson, of Butte said that she called Caliendo for assistance in understanding Medicare Part D. “Amy did help me with that Plan D and she’s helped me with other things,” she said. A diabetic on daily medications to manage the condition, Donaldson needs to stay on top of the Part D options for prescription drugs. “I’m still finding things that are hard to understand—especially that donut
?? ? ?
hole*,” she said. Caliendo encourages people to stay informed. “During open enrollment, my suggestion is to have everyone come in and talk to us,” she said. In addition to Medicare, Gilboy added that Montanans meeting income requirements may also qualify for Big Sky Rx, which is a state pharmaceutical assistance program (SPAP). Gilboy said that the program will pay Part D premiums for those with incomes falling within 200 percent of the poverty level.
Important changes in Medicare for fall of 2011
Joe Gilboy, director of the Area V Agency on Aging in Butte, noted some important changes in Medicare related services and coverage for seniors to pay attention to this fall. “The big thing that’s happening this year is the change in open enrollment times,” Gilboy said. Formerly Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, Gilboy said that open enrollment this year will occur between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, 2011. Gilboy also noted that the “donut hole”* of coverage lapses in Part D has also had some changes that benefit beneficiaries by decreasing out of pocket expenses regarding prescription medications.
Got questions? Large or small, call toll free
to get answers from your nearby Area Agency on Aging!
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The abcs (and Ds) of Medicare
Joe Gilboy, director Area V Agency on Aging, Southwest Montana Aging Services
he program is based solely on income with no asset test or evaluation of home value or retirement savings.Medicare is a health insurance available to people 65 or older, under 65 with certain disabilities, or people of age with End-Stage Renal Disease requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. To be eligible, people must have at least 10 years of full-time employment on record, or be considered disabled under Social Security Administration criteria. Divided into four different parts, the individual parts cover specific services: Medicare Part A: Also called hospital insurance, Part A helps cover inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, hospice and home health care. Most people do not have to pay a monthly premium for Part A, as most beneficiaries pay Medicare taxes during their lifelong employment. Medicare Part B: This medical insurance covers doctors’ services, hospital outpatient care, home health care as well as some preventive 24 montana55
services, such as exams, lab tests, screening and shots that maintain your health. Most beneficiaries pay a standard monthly premium and standard deductible. Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage Plans (like an HMO or PPO) are plans run by Medicare approved private insurance companies. They include Part A, Part B and usually other coverage, like Medicare prescription drug coverage (see Part D) , sometimes for an additional cost. Medicare pays a monthly subsidy for beneficiaries who are enrolled in one of these plans and the beneficiary also pays the private provider their Part B premium each month. Some may provide additional benefits such as dental, vision and/or hearing related services. Costs vary. Medicare Part D: Medicare’s prescription drug coverage plan, this prescription drug option is run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies and helps to cover the cost of prescription drugs. Depending on your health issues, Part D may
help lower prescription drug costs and protect against higher costs in the future. Costs range depending on programs chosen and individual prescriptions and there is a cumulative penalty for delayed enrollment once eligible. Supplemental Insurance or “Medigap”: Private employers, unions, and private insurance companies offer supplemental coverage or Medi-gap (Medicare Supplemental Insurance) policies for people desiring additional coverage beyond Medicare. Supplemental insurance covers gaps in Medicare coverage and may reduce out of pocket costs for beneficiaries. Those eligible for federally mandated extended insurance through COBRA, those in government programs such as the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program, TRICARE (Military Health Benefits) or Indian Health Services may have additional coverage through their specific program eligibility.
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medicare: Donut Hole: Medicare drug plans may have a gap in drug coverage, which is sometimes called the â€œdonut hole.â€? This means that after you and your plan have spent a set amount of money for covered drugs, you have to pay all out-of-pocket costs for your drugs up to a set limit. Above information was adapted from Medicare information available at www.medicare.gov and http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/sltc/services/ aging/SHIP/Medicare101.shtml.
Montana Area Agencies on Aging call toll free at 1-800-551-3191 Big Sky RX
Toll Free: 1-406-444-3846. Web: www.bigskyrx.mt.gov
National Hotline: 1-800-633-4227 Web: www.medicare.gov
Toll Free: 1-800-551-3191 MT SHIP Web link: http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/ sltc/services/aging/SHIP/ Medicare101.shtml
Action for Eastern Montana P.O. Box 1309 2030 N. Merrill Glendive, MT 59930 Phone: (406) 377-3564 email@example.com
P.O. Box 127 Roundup, MT 59702-0127 (406) 323-1320 Areatwo@midrivers.com
North Central AAA 600 S. Main St. Ste. 4 Conrad, MT 59425-2335 (406) 271-7553 Ncaaafin@3rivers.net
P.O. Box 1717 647 Jackson St. Helena, MT 59624-1717 (406) 447-1680 Caagenes@Rmdc.Net
P.O. Box 459 1015 S. Montana St. Butte, MT 59703 (406) 782-5555 Joeareav@Qwestoffice.Net
Western MT AAA 110 Main St. Ste. #5 Polson, MT 59860-2316 (406) 883-7284 Aging6@Area6aging.Org
160 Kelly Road Kalispell MT 59901-5143 (406) 758-5730 Jatkinson@Flathead. MT.Gov
2 W. Second St. Havre, MT 59501-3434 (406) 265-5464 Evelyn@Havre.MT.Us
1801 Benefis Court Great Falls, MT 59405 (406) 454-6990 firstname.lastname@example.org
Missoula Aging Services 337 Stephens Missoula, MT 59801 (406) 728-7682 Skohler@ Missoulaagingservices.org
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fishing the Boulder River
by linda halstead-archarya
You know you’ve stumbled onto something special when the local angling shop prefers to stay mum. The Boulder River, plunging from high in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to its confluence with the Yellowstone River at Big Timber, qualifies for any Montanan’s must-visit list. Situated just far enough from Bozeman and Billings, the Boulder tends to fly under the radar. And that’s part of its draw. “You get a sense of being by yourself,” said Bill Schwartz, supervisor for the recreation program at the Gallatin National Forest’s office in Big Timber. Like so many of Montana’s waterways, the Boulder lays claim to world-class trout fishing, trails to trek, Forest Service cabins to rent and rapids to kayak. But the Boulder is more. What other drainage features a spectacular, 100foot waterfall (during high water) where the old Natural Bridge caved in? And no other river can boast the oldest continually-operated ranger station in the entire Forest Service system. During summer weekends, visitors are invited to stop in and step back a century in time at the Main Boulder Ranger Station, roughly 27 miles south of Big Timber. Where the pavement turns to gravel it’s time to ditch the cell phone and revel in the journey that defines the Boulder. A siren-song-of-a-road lures visitors more than 20 miles deeper into the drainage. Hugged by wilderness on each side, the byway twists and narrows to a crawl as it carves its way through lush green meadows, laden with wildflowers, into the upper reaches, where the elusive harlequin duck seeks solitude. When you turn tail at Box Canyon, take your memories with you and hold them close to your chest. Because, when it comes to the Boulder, remember, it’s best to keep mum.
David Grubbs fishing on the Boulder River
making provisions for peace of mind
We all know we should. But the The minimum estate planning figures say we haven’t. When documents required: it comes to legal documents, Durable Financial Power of Attorney roughly 70 percent of Montanans have made no provisions for This document, which nominates someone to handle your finances during your lifetime, is mainly used during times of their property after their deaths. incapacity but can be immediately effective. Of course there’s more than death and property to consider. The checklist that follows, provided by Billings attorney Cynthia Woods, who represents clients in estate planning matters, outlines the basics. So go ahead. Get your act together. You – and your family – will be glad you did.
This “pull the plug” document states that if you are terminally ill or in an irreversible state, life-sustaining treatments can be withdrawn or withheld.
by linda halstead-archarya
Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property
This document nominates an agent to handle your medical, placement and personal care decisions during a time of incapacity — for example, a person suffering from cognitive impairment or diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.
ABILITY SOLUTIONS, INC.
This is the document, referenced in your will, that lists the desired recipient of dad’s gun collection or mom’s favorite rocking chair. Think specifics: furnishings, jewelry, tools, and collectibles.
By signing this document, you allow medical providers to release your private medical information to the person you have designated as your agent.
Only effective at death, this document not only describes how you want your property distributed, but nominates a personal representative to handle the administration of your estate. It should include provisions for the nomination of a guardian and payment provisions for minor children, grandchildren and disabled beneficiaries. In addition, a will may include provisions for holding assets in trust. The medical issues listed above are covered in “Five Wishes,” an easy-to-use workbook that walks you through necessary medical questions. Copies can be obtained by going to www.agingwithdignity.org, calling 888-594-7437 or through many local agencies, clinics and attorneys. For other legal documents, Woods recommends contacting an attorney. Additional information on estate planning is available through the Montana State University Extension site at www.msuextension.org.
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where Montanaâ€™s single seniors are meeting
*The names in this story have been changed because the sources did not want to be indentified.
by paula j. mcgarvey
This ain’t no sock hop or high school dance. Single Montana seniors are discovering that in a big state with a small population, computer dating websites are the new frontier for connecting mature people of similar ages and interests within the state.
I want someone engaged in living fully
or Madison Fletcher,* a 69-yearold divorced woman in Butte, on-line dating seemed like a logical alternative to random meetings left to chance or setups by wellmeaning friends. Semi-retired and knowledgeable about computers, she tried some popular online dating services like eHarmony and Match. com, but didn’t find the men on-line to be a good fit for her stage in life. “It’s too broad a spectrum because it carries all age groups,” she said. Though, blushing, she’s confessed to having flirted with a few younger men in their 40s online. Then, she heard about a new site specific to seniors. “A friend in Billings found a man she’s absolutely wild about online at OurTime.com and suggested I try it,” she said. Fletcher found a host of men in her own age category and older at the site. She posted a profile and a few photos and began looking through dozens of profiles posted by seniors across the state. She said that her criteria included men who were non-smokers, not into the bar scene and financially independent. She was contacted by a man in his 60s and, after a few emails, decided to meet him for coffee. Though she enjoyed his company and the stimulating conversation, he let her know he was moving on to another
pursuit and the two parted ways. She’s currently setting up a coffee date with another suitor, a few years her junior who lives fulltime in his RV. Fletcher said that she enjoys meeting men for coffee because she’s not into alcohol and a coffee shop is a public place that is good for a first time meeting with a virtual stranger. (see sidebar) So far, Fletcher admits she’s having fun and enjoying shopping online for prospects and conversing on line through email exchanges. “Through the process of dialog, different aspects of people’s personalities comes out,” she said. She’s contacted quite a few and said that she weeds out people who don’t spark her curiosity or share her common interests. “I’m looking for a man who can have conversations worth having. I want to share ideas about books and thoughts, as well as have a physical attraction … I want someone engaged in living fully,” she said. Just starting out, she’s still not sure where this new way of socializing with other seniors will turn out. “I think there are various levels of relationships that can be satisfying,” she said, adding that she still would like to find a long-term companion, if the right man came along. “I want to find someone to laugh and find joy with,” she said.
I thought it would open up a bigger pool of people
ary Speece,* 56, was single and living in Butte, and though she had many friends and was very social, she said that she wasn’t meeting available men who shared her interests. “I wasn’t interested in going to bars, either,” she said. Like Fletcher, she had tried Match. com, but found the dating pool to be limited to younger men with different interests than a woman of her maturity. Speece found SeniorPeopleMeet.com while “Googling” senior websites and decided to give it a try. “I thought it would open up a bigger pool of people, hopefully with more similar interests,” she said. She liked the affordability of the service, and the ability to post a photo, while maintaining her anonymity through a private email exchange service at the site. She said that she
or Ted Collins*, 58, who was fairly new to Helena, the dating scene was turning out to be a disappointment. He said that he met many married couples, but very few available women his age in his daily life. “I’m not a bar scene person,” he explained. Collins said that he’s looked at online dating sites in the past, but hadn’t made contact. He was looking at SeniorPeopleMeet.com when he saw Speece’s photo and profile and liked what she had to say about herself. “It was the whole package,” he said. Over time, the two fell in love. Collins had a job opportunity in the Midwest, and Fletcher encouraged him to pursue it. The two kept in touch. Speece traveled to see him and ultimately decided to follow him out. She moved in July. The two shared their perspectives about dating past 50 and dating online. 34
put a lot of thought and effort into her profile, and also took the first step and sent a few emails to men she found interesting. Then, a new photo of a senior from Helena caught her eye, and she was working up her courage to send him an email, when he sent her one first. They cyber-chatted online for a few days. “I was real attracted to what he wrote in the email,” she said. The two exchanged phone numbers and moved their dialog to the next level. “The first time we talked it was for two hours,” Speece said. She agreed to meet in person, choosing a restaurant in Helena to share a meal. “It was really nice,” she said. The two started dating regularly and, within a few months, had formed an exclusive relationship.
“When you are 56, you are a little more realistic. I wasn’t looking for a ‘stars in your eyes soulmate.’ I just wanted to meet somebody, hopefully fall in love, and have a good companion that I could do things with and call my friend,” she said. Collins agreed that mature dating requires a strong sense of realism, peppered with a positive attitude. “If you expect the worst, you often get what you expect. The big thing is keeping an open mind,” he said. Though the on-line introductions speed up the process, Collins said that you still need to interact in a real world setting to size up any potential partner. “You still need to sit face to face to get a true sense of who people are,” he said. The two are currently settling into their new home and new life and happy to have their on-line experience working out. “I feel like I was really lucky,” Speece said.
The big thing is keeping and open mind
Staying safe when dating online
ith online dating services targeting the over-50 crowd, mature people are joining the millions of other Americans meeting online and are subject to the same rules for safety in this new forum. Choose your online dating service wisely, using established sites with a large member base and a philosophy that matches your own. The following safety tips will also serve to help people stay safe on-line. • Maintain your anonymity on dating sites. Don’t offer your full name, phone number, place of employment or other information that could put you at risk with people you do not know. • Use the email services provided through the online dating service, rather than your personal email to protect your privacy. • Make sure the images you post on your profile reflect the message you are trying to send to potential lookers. Be careful not to wear your employer’s brand or other identifying material. • If possible, check to see if a potential date has a good reputation among others on the service. Networking
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with friends in your community and background check services on-line can also find out important information about potential partners. • Be realistic and don’t assume everything you see posted is true. Ask questions and seek answers. • Be alert for signs of abuse, such as displays of anger, attempts to control, or disrespectful comments. Report any abuse to the site and block that person from contacting you. • Do not provide any potential partner with financial information or loan them money, no matter how sad the story. This could be a potential scam. • When deciding to meet, choose a safe and public environment. Keep the first meeting short and make sure someone you know is aware of your plans. If a date does not appear the same as their online photo, walk away immediately and report the incident to the dating service. Information was adapted from the Washington State Office for the Attorney General at http://www.atg.wa.gov/ InternetSafety/Seniors.aspx#Online_dating
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back to work and loving it
Allen Kohler in his classroom at the Ramsay School
Allen Kohler retired from his 34-year career as a teacher and guidance counselor in June of 2004 – for about six months. By January of 2005, he realized that being a teacher and counselor was more than what he did, it was who he was. “I felt like I was doing something worthwhile,” he said. Kohler described the absence of teaching in his life as a void. “I missed it. It was like my life had totally changed,” he said. At the start of the new year, Kohler placed his name on the School District No. 1 substitute teacher call roster. In no time, he was getting called to fill in for sick days, maternity leaves and extended absences within the district.
Though “subbing” is some teachers’ nightmare, Kohler was glad for the chance to be back working in the schools. “I can honestly say I never taught a student I didn’t like,” he said. When a job opened up for a school counselor at the nearby Ramsay School, Kohler decided to apply and went in for an interview. “They called me later that night and offered me the job. I’ve been there ever since,” he said. School Principal Rosie Garvey said that Kohler’s experience and rapport with the children made him a good fit for the students. “They relate really well to Allen,” she said. Despite being in his early 60s, Kohler brings the same enthusiasm to the job as a first-year teacher.
by paula j. mcgarvey
photos paula j. mcgarvey and courtesy of allen kohler
At the end of each year, Kohler publishes his Ram Writer’s work in a booklet and distributes it to each child and teacher at Ramsay School, making sure a copy is placed in the school library.
“He’s always willing to do whatever he can,” Garvey said. Kohler discovered this affinity for working with kids in the summer of 1966, when he volunteered as an assistant scout master for the Boy Scouts of America. An eagle scout, the chance to try his wings in a leadership role changed his life. “That’s what made me decide to be a teacher,” he said. He attended one year of college in Idaho studying wildlife biology, but transferred to UM-Western in Dillon and changed his major to education. He graduated in 1969 and took a job as a sixth-grade teacher in Butte at the Kennedy School. For the next three decades,
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reinventing retirement: Left: Kohler keeps his Ram Writers group motivated with a year end field trip. This photo shows Ellie Kuoppala and David Brown on a fishing trip to Twin Bridges at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
I can honestly say, in education, I’ve never had a downer day Right: A group of Kohler’s Ram Writers from the 7th grade during the 2010-2011 school year. From the left are: Kassidy Wagner, Ryann Ehman, Allyson Cater and Kristiana Osterman
he motivates his students throughout the year with special treats he taught in Butte schools, counseled kids and coached within the district. He went back to school in 1972 to get a master’s degree in education with a concentration in guidance counseling. “I saw that to be an area where a teacher could really help children,” he said. In 2004, he accepted a retirement incentive and resigned. His brush with retirement short-lived, Kohler is glad to be back counseling kids and sitting behind the big desk. Kohler works two days each week as a counselor and heads up the school’s Ram Writers 38
group. The group includes students in grades 3-8. The program originally started as an outlet for gifted and talented students, but in the last year, Kohler said it was opened to all students. Last year, he had 48 budding writers in the group. “It enhances their writing skills, it introduces them to different types of writing—like creative writing and poetry,” he said. As if being published wasn’t enough, he motivates his students throughout the year with special treats and certificates. Those who complete all the
assigned writing projects are allowed to attend a year-end field trip. One year, that trip was to media mogul Ted Turner’s bison ranch outside Bozeman. Last spring, the trip was a fishing excursion to Twin Bridges. Garvey said that another one of Kohler’s contributions is organizing a career day. Kohler said that he invites seventh- and eighth-grade classes from other area schools, as well as professionals ranging from police officers to pharmacists. Kohler stresses the importance of finding a profession that you enjoy.
The 8th grade Ram Writers’ group displays resources that were purchased by Kohler with grant money secured for the program.
“I can honestly say, in education, I’ve never had a downer day,” he said. At year’s end, Kohler gathers his Ram Writers best works and publishes the collection. Each student and teacher at Ramsay School gets a copy. He also helps his students submit work to the Rocky Mountain Division of the national publication “A Celebration of Poets.”
Ram Writer Brityn Garrett had a short story about her horse published in the book. Garrett said that she is a fan of the writing group and its leader. “I really like the Ram Writers’ group because it gives us the opportunity to go take classes with Mr. Kohler. He is a really fun teacher,” she said. Since he began teaching in 1969, “Mr. Kohler” has been a positive
impact on thousands of children. One of his former students, Dr. Pete Sorini, a Butte native and area neurosurgeon, remembers Kohler as one of his favorite educators. “He was one of those perceptive teachers who could see what kids needed,” he said. Sorini said that Kohler also served as one of his mentors. “He got me into Boy Scouts,” he said. Like Kohler, Sorini also became an eagle scout—the highest rank in scouting. Sorini attributes some of his success as an adult to Kohler’s influence—and applauds Kohler for staying involved post-retirement. “I think it’s a testament to his dedication and perseverance,” Sorini said.
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more than busywork
Terry Struck teaching a computer class at the Billings Community Center
Ever since Terry Struck drove past the Billings’ Cop Shop years ago, a thought has tugged at his mind. He told himself when he had more time, he’d like to volunteer as “back-up” for the Billings Police force.
Today, now two years retired, the Billings resident and former Wells Fargo go-to tech guy spends one morning each week patrolling Billings’
streets responding to non-emergency complaints. Along with his patrol partner Clint Buck – they refer to themselves as
by linda halstead-archarya “Buck and Struck” or the “BS TEAM” – the not-so-Hollywood buddies ticket illegally parked cars, retrieve stolen bicycles and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. And Struck is having a blast. “We use old patrol cars with lights and cameras,” he said, grinning. “And whenever we go out, we have to have a microphone on us, so our entire shift is recorded.” If anything gets dicey – and a few times it has – they respond as instructed and just walk away. Struck, now 65, is on the leading edge of baby boomers who have recently traded their 9-to-5 jobs for new ventures. In fact, he personifies the oftrepeated retirement mantra: “When did I find time to work?” Not only does he volunteer at the cop shop, he juggles three other parttime jobs and donates his time to a slew of local organizations – from Habitat for Humanity to the Billings Symphony.
An apple a day just isn’t enough.
Though his schedule is full, it’s full of activities he’s chosen. “My new jobs are completely different than what I did at work,” he said. “And everything I’m doing, I can leave at the drop of a hat.” Struck’s new multi-purpose careers – he also serves as rental supervisor at the Billings Community Center – teaches a how-to class on downloading digital photos and runs his home-based lawn mower recycling/repair business – came as no accident. As he approached retirement, he remembered his father, who left his job with no realistic plan and nothing to do. Taking that lesson to heart, the younger Struck signed up for Wells Fargo’s “Planning for Retirement” class. He took it three times. The self-described “social butterfly” knew he’d need new interactions when he left the bank’s employ. So, almost before his retirement cake had been polished off, Struck offered his time at the Billings Community Center and
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cop shop. “By volunteering, I’ve created that social network again,” he said. “I’ve got a whole bunch of new people I started hanging out with.” Struck’s obvious enthusiasm has also garnered him more full-time job offers — since retiring — than he ever had when looking for work. Now, however, he has the luxury of being selective. And full-time is strictly out of the picture. “Now, I don’t want to have just some mediocre job, just busy work,” he said. “I want to be doing something meaningful and good in the community that I have lived in for 40-plus years.”
When did I find time to work?
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full time RV life in montana
We were ready to move on in our lives to something else
Barb and Lou Dryden in front of their RV
Although it is difficult to find statistics reporting an exact number, it is estimated that more than a million Americans are cruising our nation’s highways and byways full time in recreational vehicles (RVs).
Many make the shift from hauling travel trailers and fifthwheels on weekend campouts and vacations during their career years to “full- timing” it in their retirement. They share a wanderlust that drives them to seek a way of life free of the expenses, responsibilities and constraints of home ownership. For many, the lure is catalyst enough for “downsizing,” the RV term for selling off homes, giving up possessions and taking to the open road.
by paula j. mcgarvey
Barb and Lou Dryden in all the comforts of home.
Lou and Barb Dryden put the proverbial cart before the horse, joining the RV enthusiast’s Good Sam Club before they had retired or purchased an RV. The two were living in Cashmere, Wash. Barb worked in the food service industry and Lou was working as a maintenance supervisor at the Chelan County fairgrounds. It was Lou’s job that brought him in regular contact with Good Sam Club members at annual Samborees — regular gatherings of the club occurring across the country. The two enjoyed the people they had met through the club, became members in 2005 and then joined the ranks of RV owners the following year. “We were ready to move on in our lives to something else,” Barb explained. The couple began downsizing—a painstaking chore after living in the same house for 35 years. “Five dumpsters later, we still had two storage units of stuff,” Lou said. Then they found a buyer for their home. “Things just came together,” Barb said. They bought a new, 35-foot National “Seabreeze” in 2006. When Barb turned 62 that December, she retired and the couple climbed aboard driving south—with a Ford Explorer SUV in tow. Born in Oregon, Lou had spent most of his childhood in Montana. His father was a minister and he and his family moved from parish to parish every few years. Lou didn’t mind, sharing that his theme song for his teens and twenties was “The Happy Wanderer.” “I’ve always loved travel,” he said. Barb agreed. With ties to the state, the Drydens chose to make Montana their legal residence. They have a Missoula post office box, Montana driver’s licenses and license plates, and vote in the state. “I love Montana. I love the Montana people,” Lou said. The two have no children and said that they chose to
forgo the stereotypical toy size dog for companionship. “Pets restrict your lifestyle,” Barb said. Since hitting the road five years ago, the two have been traversing the West in synch with the changing seasons. “Our philosophy at the beginning was that we would do a lot of exploring in different areas,” Lou said. The two are computer literate, keep an email address and patronize RV parks that offer free wi-fi. “You need a computer and access to the Internet,” Barb said, adding that she conducted most of her business online. “The two things that make full-timing easier are cell phones and wi-fi,” Lou added. Though the price of fuel has somewhat limited their travels, the two are still weaving their way north and south, west of the Mississippi, visiting friends and extended family. They both admit there are pros and cons about their chosen way of life. They started with cons. “You don’t have roots. You are from wherever your motor home is parked,” Lou said. Connections with friends from Good Sam help provide them with a social network, to counter this. Lou and Barb are co-directors of the Montana State Good Sam Club and hosted the state club’s meeting in Butte last July. Pros include the excitement of discovery and avoiding the winter drudgery of cold and snow. “We wanted to get away from having to shovel snow,” Barb said. “I’m enjoying not having to mow the lawn,” Lou chimed in. For now, the Drydens are taking each day as it comes, not knowing what lies ahead over the next hill and loving every minute of it. “No regrets … we know there will come a day when we can’t do this anymore,” Lou said. September 2011 43
Rod Bowman is pictured at his camp host post at Beavertail Hill State Park. / Jessica R. Peters
Rod Bowman, “home” most The RV lifestyle Forsummers is a 39-foot Tradewinds motor home parked in the camp host’s at Beavertail Hill State Park. offers the right spot Bowman, 79, is a Lewiston native and been RV-ing since 1996. He made combination of has the shift to camp hosting in 2000. A retired auto mechanic, Bowman alone and said that he had the travel and lives no trouble selling his home and to become a full timer. the socializing downsizing “You just have to make up your mind that, that’s what you want to do,” he said. Bowman said that since becoming a camp host, he has logged over 4,000 winter hours at Lake Mead in Nevada and currently winters at the Boulders ATV Staging Area outside of Phoenix, Ariz. During the summer months, he returns home to Montana. He served
as a camp host at Seeley Lake for four summers prior to taking on the Beavertail Hill assignment. With a brother in Missoula, he likes his new digs. The job comes with few responsibilities. Bowman checks in with newly arriving campers and cleans up campsites after they leave, and is on hand in the evenings in case of emergencies. For Bowman, the RV lifestyle offers the right combination of the travel and the socializing that makes the way of life a perfect fit. “I just love traveling—just meeting the people and talking to them and seeing where they’re going,” he said. And, camp hosting, with free campsites and hook ups, helps keep it affordable.
Bud Fleming / Jessica R. Peters
est of Missoula, Bud and Mary Fleming are serving as park hosts at Frenchtown Pond State Park. Bud, 77, said that the couple started out tenting when their children were small, but adapted to the RV lifestyle as their children grew older. The Flemings made the decision to sell their home and buy a 38- foot RV to become full-timers in 2001. “The first year we bought it, we drove to Alaska,” Bud said. Since that time, the Flemings have been to almost every one of the lower 48 states, with the exception of New England. “I love it. I wouldn’t own another house,” Fleming said. With adult children in Alaska, South Dakota, and California, the Flemings have found living in an RV gives them both the freedom and opportunity to take extended trips to visit their children and grandchildren. Mary was
exercising that freedom at the time of Bud’s interview and had just flown out of Missoula to spend some additional time with the grandkids in California. Bud didn’t mind staying behind. Now in his sixth summer hosting at Frenchtown, the Flemings have created a network of friends from the park and from Montana-based snowbirds that they’ve encountered at Arizona and California RV parks during the winter months. “It’s a great life. All you’ve got is your food and your fuel getting there,” he said. Serving as a park host helps the Flemings keep their budget in check in an RV that gets between 8-10 miles per gallon. “When gas was $4 a gallon, every time I filled up it was $600.” Fleming said. The Flemings alternate their
Bud and Mary Fleming have traveled with this geranium plant since they hit the road. Jessica R. Peters
summer park host work with Custer State Park in South Dakota, allowing them to see their daughter and her family. But, Bud says he’s still fond of his summers in Montana. “I visit friends, I run around, I sight see, and go pick huckleberries. I love huckleberries,” he said. September 2011
Camp and park hosting
amp or park hosting is another RV lifestyle option that can provide full timers with the best of both worlds. Seniors have the option of spending months at a time in a familiar location, while cutting the costs of fuel and RV park fees accumulated while on the road. When cold weather comes, they can migrate south to winter positions or congregate at southern RV parks with other full time snowbirds. Camp and park hosts in Montana typically serve between May 1 through Sept. 30. Acting as liaisons between park visitors and park staff, hosts’ duties can range from overnight security to latrine duty, depending on the individual arrangement. Benefits include free “rent” of a campsite with water and utility hookups. “We really rely on these volunteers to do what needs to be done out there,” said Lee Bastion, Montana State Parks Regional Park Manager. “It’s just an invaluable service.” Bastion said that the job provides seniors with an opportunity for social involvement, while providing park and campground visitors with a wealth of knowledge and experience.
“They’re just gems, every one of them. I think it’s a great boost to our tourism,” he said. Bud Fleming serving as park host at Frenchtown Pond