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Gazette SENIORS | January 2014




January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS



SENIORS Editor Graphic Design Contributing Writers

Corporate Advertising Director Creative Director Prepress Manager Special Sections Coordinator

Kimberly Bamber Anna Joyce Karen Finucan Clarkson Ellen Cohen Scott Harris Arlene Karidis Jim Mahaffie Dennis Wilston Anna Joyce John Schmitz Ashby Rice






In the "Welcome to the White Oak Senior Center" article in the October 2013 edition of Gazette Seniors, the lunch information was incorrect. Lunch is served Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at noon for those 60 and older and a spouse of any age; a voluntary contribution is requested. Guests, including caretakers, under 60 may enjoy the meal as well for $5.49.


Gazette SENIORS | January 2014



You’re Never Too Old to Shoot Some

HOOPS u Seniors’ basketball takes off around metro area BY JIM MAHAFFIE


enior basketball is going strong across the greater metro area. Recreation Specialist Patrick Sullivan estimates there are 300 to 400 regular players in the over-55 leagues across Montgomery County alone. “Go watch them. They’re as competitive as can be,” said Sullivan. “Once games are over, they go off and get something to eat. They all seem to enjoy each other’s company, and it’s both therapy and exercise for them.” According to Sullivan, the county works with the Montgomery County Senior Sports Association (MCSSA), a nonprofit that organizes teams and league play. MCSSA offers a 65 and older basketball league that plays on Sunday mornings.There is also a 70 and older league that plays on Friday afternoons, according to John Medford, 72, a player and basketball commissioner for the MCSSA. Both leagues cost $120 per player for the season, plus $5 for MCSSA dues, according to the MCSSA website. Leagues are also available for 55-plus and 60-plus age groups at various days and times. Players may register as individuals or as a team through the Montgomery County Recreation Department. Many practices and games are held at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Rockville. “All senior basketball league games are five-on-five full court, played with professional officials, a timekeeper and a scorekeeper,” said Medford. Organized play, he said, is also available for seniors who just Gazette.Net

want to walkk in and play on Tuesdays and Thursdays ays from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Bauer Drivee center. Another pickup program is played Mondays and Fridays at Thomas omas Farm Community Center in Rockville. ockville. “Some of these guys compete in various national onal senior events and go on to compete in the he Maryland Senior Olympics,” said Sullivan.. Steve Lawrence, wrence, 68, of Bowie has played for years in younger Montgomery County unty leagues. He plays in the 65-plus lus league this season, since he had d a recent knee surgery and needs too “act his age,” he said. “I hate gyms and jogging, and when I play two or three times a week, I can stay in shape.” .” Fairfax, Va., resident Del Wilson has played for years all over the area. At 78, he plays pickup up basketball from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesdayss and Fridays at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, Va. “A competitive mpetitive league practices and d plays at the center Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. for 40-55, 56-69 and 70-plus age groups,” he said. League gue play is three-onthree half-court, ourt, and pickup games are usually sually four-onfour half-court, urt, according


Montgomery County senior residents play basketball regularly at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Rockville.

See HOOPS, 26 January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS






TOP LEFT: Gayle Murphy of Fairfax, Va., keeps track of all her cards while playing bingo at the Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale, Va. ABOVE: Mary Frances Kicklighter, a 60-year bingo fan, has played at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale for 10 years. RIGHT: The game in action


Gazette SENIORS | January 2014

t didn’t take more than a few minutes before Gayle Murphy’s hand shot up and she called out, “Bingo!” Other voices quickly followed suit. As a result, the $100 early-bird prize was divided equally among four winners. Murphy, a Fairfax, Va., resident, has enjoyed bingo for about 45 years. She’s been playing at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale, Va., since 1982, when the Epiphany Men’s Club started running Tuesday night bingo games to raise money for the church’s building fund. For Murphy, bingo is akin to therapy. “Here I just think about the numbers; at home I can think about reality,” she said. While there are prizes for each game, Murphy enjoys the social aspect. “If I played bingo to win, I’d have quit 40 years ago.” For the 10 early-bird games, Murphy played 18 faces, or paper cards. She added more for the regular games and played 30 for what is known as a coverall, where the objective is to cover every number on the card. As each new number appeared on the monitor—there were seven strategically placed throughout the hall—Murphy used a colorful dauber to highlight it on her cards. She stayed a step ahead of the caller, who announced the number several seconds after it appeared on the screen. At the Rockville Senior Center, Betty Ball has seen many people play 12, 15 or more faces at a time. “Three is about my limit,” said Ball, who runs bingo at the center everyWednesday night for some 40 to 50 players. “Ours is mostly a night out for seniors to get together and not spend a fortune. It’s a very congenial group.” While the cost of cards and prize payouts—the largest is $1,000—are lower at the senior center than many other places, according to Ball, bingo proceeds are not insignificant. “We give about $20,000 per year to [Rockville], which goes back into the center,” she said. Bingo, considered a form of gambling, is regulated by the state in Virginia and by individual counties in Maryland. Regulations dictate everything from the number of nights per week bingo can be sponsored by a specific organization to the maximum prize that can be offered. Gazette.Net

The largest prize awarded by the

Epiphany Men’s Club was around $18,000, according to Ed Gubanich, bingo manager, and that was for a progressive instant bingo game. “It goes up $500 every week if someone doesn’t hit,” he said. Instant bingo is a perforated card with several pull tabs. The object of the game is to match the symbols or numbers under the tabs to winning combinations, each worth a different amount, on the front of the ticket. Bingo night in both Annandale and Rockville begins with games for the early birds. “Our first three games are short and played while people are coming in,” said Ball. People purchase food—hot dogs, apple pie and soft drinks—find a seat and get settled in. “Bingo players can be a bit territorial,” said Bob Kicklighter, noting that regulars often prefer to sit in the same place and don’t take kindly when newcomers appropriate their spot. Kicklighter shared the table with his wife, Mary Frances, who has played bingo for about 60 years, the last 10 at the Annandale church. Bingo—second only to golf as Kicklighter’s favorite pastime—is a bit of a challenge for the gregarious Falls Church,Va.,



resident. “Everyone’s so focused; they don’t like you to make a lot of noise.” “O-63,” announced the caller into his microphone, waiting for someone to yell, “bingo.” About 10 seconds or so later came the next call, “B-6.” The scoreboard above the caller displayed a

wealth of information—everything from what game number was being played to what the prize was to what pattern constituted bingo. In addition to the straight horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines associated with single bingo, winning patterns, depending on the game, included a postage stamp (four squares that come together in the corner of the bingo card), kite (a postage stamp with a three-square tail) or a small diamond (with no Bs or Os allowed). Game No. 3 was a double postage stamp. Since there was no need to worry about any numbers in the “N” column, Anitra Kroh of Centreville, Va., took her red dauber and covered every numeral between 31 and 45 on her nine cards. Her mother, Linda Kloo of Fairfax, did the same.The two women have been playing bingo together for a decade. “It’s our one night out together,” said Kroh. While Kroh and Kloo view bingo more as a social opportunity, they are not averse to winning. “I won $1,000 one time, and mom won $1,300 one week. In fact, last week she had bingo four times,” said Kroh. As shouts of “bingo,” emanated from a distant corner, Kroh ripped the green

sheet off of her book to reveal a red one for game No. 4. Cardboard and chips are things of the past; today, bingo is played with paper and ink.

The Epiphany Men’s Club sells a

regular bingo book with six faces—the minimum purchase—for $10. Discounts are offered to those buying additional faces. “If you play 24 faces, it will cost $37,” said Gubanich. Bingo is, for the most part, a game of chance, though it takes some skill to monitor and process the numbers that are called, said Ball. Some people, however, seem to have luck on their side. “I know some ladies who go out five nights a week and they win; they win a lot,” she said. There appears to be a correlation between luck and volume, according to Murphy. The more faces you play, the greater your chance at bingo. Creating that luck often requires a larger than average investment. Still, whether you play six faces or 24; whether the prize is $100 or $1,000, “there’s an excitement that comes with winning,” said Ball, and some level of satisfaction in knowing that when your number is not called, a worthy cause is benefitting.


January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS



PERSONAL HISTORIES: For the Next Generation, and Yourself


The Cambodian man had a gift.

There it is, just behind you. “We turned around,” recalled Bethesda resident John Hocker, now 78. “And there was this elephant.” It was 1971, the Vietnam War. Hocker, then an Army paratrooper, had been called on to serve as the French translator for a team tasked with rebuilding Cambodia’s armed forces. One day, the team hosted a particularly important visitor to the country. The visitor’s name? Adm. John McCain. Not the former presidential candidate, but the former presidential candidate’s father of the same name, who was then commander-in-chief of Pacific operations. The visit went well. Hence the elephant, presented to McCain by Cambodia’s new leader, Marshal Lon Nol. And Hocker, being the proverbial low man on the totem pole in that particular room, was left trying to make some pretty hefty arrangements. “You can’t say no to a gift in that situation,” Hocker said. “My commanding officer turned around to me and told me to take care of it. And since there was no one behind me, it was my responsibility.” A few phone calls and some logistical gymnastics later, Hocker had arranged for the elephant to go to the Los Angeles Zoo. A few decades later, Hocker paid his old friend a visit. “We went out about eight years ago, and there he was,” Hocker said. “But he didn’t remember me.” This is one especially dramatic example from a personal history. Hocker recorded this story and many others on video and shared it with his children and grandchildren. 8

Gazette SENIORS | January 2014


ABOVE: Bethesda resident John Hocker stands with Chamrocun in Cambodia in the early 1970s. LEFT: Hocker records his personal history, which includes the tale of meeting the elephant shown above.

“My grandchildren talk about the tales I tell to this day,” he said.

Hocker is one in a growing contingent

of older Americans using video or audio

recording technologies or the good oldfashioned written word to capture their own life story or “personal history” for children and grandchildren, according to the Association of Personal Historians. Some undertake the task on their own by writing a memoir. Others sit down with personal historians for guided, in-depth interviews.

“People come to this from a variety of points of view,” said Ronda Barrett, a personal historian and “story facilitator” based in Kensington. “A lot of time, the younger family members are asking for it. Other times, older people feel their memories may be escaping and they want to record those memories.” More widely available, userfriendly technologies, such as video recording or Web publishing or research tools, make it easier than ever to piece together a personal history. Meanwhile, with extended families living farther apart and busy lives often interfering with even the best-intentioned plans, recording life stories for posterity is a way of preserving history for future generations. “We’ve lost the dinner table,” said Ellouise Schoettler, 77, a Chevy Chase resident and professional storyteller who is writing a personal memoir for her children. “You’d exchange your stories each day together.This is a way of getting that back. It’s sad that you take [family members] for granted sometimes. One death closes an entire library.” That’s especially true, Barrett said, given the major shift now underway between generations. World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors are still alive, but they, and their stories, will not live forever.The same goes for the millions of Americans who grew up in a more rural or farming environment, a less common lifestyle today.

Personal histories benefit more than

the younger generations. They can, Barrett said, help the tellers themselves, as Gazette.Net

they provide a natural opportunity for reflection and self-assessment. “They get catharsis,” Barrett said. “They are stopping and capturing what they know about their careers, their relationships and their lives.You get to address your regrets and think about what you’ll do with the time you have left.” For Schoettler, a passion for storytelling grew out of a passion for genealogy. But the original driving force wasn’t a desire to connect the limbs and branches of a family tree, but to learn about the lives behind the yellowed birth certificates. It’s that same desire, Schoettler said, that fuels personal histories for those you’ll leave behind. “The personal story is about finding yourself,” Schoettler said. “As I researched my family, I began to see myself as a collage. I saw all the women in my family who came before me as survivors.” For those who are not professional storytellers, there are the personal historians. Hocker, who went through a series of interviews with a personal historian, said the process unlocked memories that might otherwise have remained tucked away.

“I had to remember many things,” Hocker said. “The interviewer asked a lot of questions and had a lot of pictures that piqued my memory. There are without a doubt some things I would’ve forgotten on my own.” Whether it’s with a professional videographer or a spiral notebook, the desire for capturing personal histories is clear. Anything that can help a world obsessed with the future connect more closely with its past can’t help but provide clearer perspective to those who pay attention. “We all live in a story,” Schoettler said. “We just don’t know it until we start looking for it.The story is really what you want to pass down.That’s what tells people who they are.”

“We all live in a story ... The story is really what you want to pass down.


Interested in creating a personal history? For more information, visit:

- Ellouise Schoettler, professional storyteller and Chevy Chase resident

Association of Personal Historians Ronda Barrett’s personal history website The Writer’s Center, Bethesda


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Volunteers Paula Bucy and Diane Capel manage the front desk at the Damascus Senior Center.

Movie Bingo draws players from around the community to test their knowledge of classic and current movies.


Gazette SENIORS | January 2014

n a recentTuesday, about 40 seniors were gathered at tables to enjoy home-cooked lasagna in the brightly lit main room of the Damascus Senior Center.Volunteers George Hibbert, 75, and Richard Fox, 90, handed out bingo chips for a post-lunch game of Movie Bingo. Every secondTuesday of the month, the center hosts Movie Day. Meanwhile, up the long hallway, Paula Bucy and Diane Capel managed the front desk area, where a holiday craft sale was in full swing. A few dozen serious cardplaying seniors were in the front room playing different games. The auditorium was quiet then, but it is not during the Chairobics and Zumba Gold classes held there regularly, along with step aerobics classes and other events. Open Monday through Friday, the Damascus Senior Center is constantly busy from 9 a.m. through midafternoon with a variety of classes, games, social events, people using exercise equipment and more, said Director Tony Edghill. “Besides our regular schedule, we offer more than 70 programs throughout the year.”

One of the special aspects of the center is the food. Nutrition Site Manager Sue Ketchum has worked at the center for 19 years. Not long after she started, she began preparing homemade lunches for the seniors. “Everything is low-sodium and low-fat,” said Ketchum. “Favorites include the lasagna, as well as salmon patties, spinach quiche and shepherd’s pie.” She and her husband shop every week for the center and prepare lunch daily for the dozens. If a person is under 60, the meal is $7. If over 60, it’s a “pay what you can contribution,” said Edghill. “The chef is really good here,” said front desk volunteer Capel of Ketchum and her crew. “People love to come for the food.” Capel has worked at other senior centers and said that Damascus feels like home. “It’s a great community. Everyone helps each other out and we have a great group of volunteers,” said Edghill. Damascus Senior Center 9701 Main St., Damascus 20872 240-777-6995 Open Monday to Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On certain Tuesdays, volunteers George Hibbert, 75, and Richard Fox, 90, call the popular Movie Bingo game. Gazette.Net




January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS



What’s the secret to a


The Gazette asked local seniors over 90 to find out. Here’s what they had to say: COMPILED BY ARLENE KARIDIS




HARRY KUPTZIN, 92 Silver Spring For Harry Kuptzin, the secret to a long and happy life is doing what he loves with the people he loves. His happiness stems from the motivation he gets from past experiences. “My wife, Lenore, still with me after 62 years, keeps me going. And my World War II experience does too. I was three years in the Army, including half of that time in France in the Battle of Normandy … and the Battle of the Bulge. After that, I felt I could handle anything the world would throw at me.” Beyond the love of his life and what he learned as a soldier, Kuptzin has other passions that drive him; namely the allure of a good debate and his interest in politics. “I am on oxygen and use a walker, but I still drive to Holiday Park [Multiservice] Senior Center two or three times a week to participate in a discussion group and writing group. I especially like to engage in the topics of politics and economics. I was assistant director of the U.S. Employment Service, part of the Department of Labor. I worked to help develop programs to boost employment in economically depressed areas through the country, and discussing economic inequality is still my passion. I’m still 30 years old in a 92-year-old body when I get involved in the issues. “I also like to get on my computer and read the digital edition ofThe NewYorkTimes. I do this almost every day. “I also set goals for myself in terms of what I would like to be here for. I have two grandchildren going to Princeton; I would like to see them finish up. And I would like to be here for the next state and presidential elections.”

LILA OLIVER ASHER, 92 Chevy Chase Lila Oliver Asher has found richness in life largely through her travel adventures and her art, which has been displayed in galleries as close to home as Silver Spring and as far away as India. “I lost a grown son and two husbands, but having work I enjoy helped keep me going. I was teaching art at Howard University through some of the hard times, and I still work in my home studio ... “With art, there is always something new to create. It has made me happy and wanting to continue living.” Oliver Asher also credits her longevity to her focus on exercising her mind and body. “I go to exercise class three mornings a week. It’s slowly stretching and moving to keep flexible and exercising with weights to keep your bones strong. “My art studio is on the third floor of my home, so I do a lot of climbing stairs and that keeps you stronger. It’s my happy place. It’s where I concentrate on the one thing I enjoy, and I think this is good for the mind.” Oliver Asher’s adventures traveling abroad have added much to her life. “I went around the world doing my art and seeing how people taught art. Now I don’t travel as far, though I did a cruise last year on the Danube river in Europe.That was just for pleasure. I went with my daughter and son-in-law. And in previous years, I went with my husband to do watercolors.These experiences and staying busy doing whatever you love is important all your life.”

ROBERT BEHR, 91 Gaithersburg Robert Behr said he lives a long, happy life because of good health, his determination to be here to care for his wife and his community involvements. “My wife, Marie, and I depend on each other. It’s the most important incentive I have to lead the life I am leading. Simply, she needs me, and I need her.We take care of each other. “My health is pure luck, but eating properly and exercising help. I go to the gym four times a week. I walk 3 miles on a treadmill in 55 minutes.” Then there is Behr’s volunteer work. “I volunteer at Shady Grove [Adventist] Hospital in the ER. And, I volunteer at the Holocaust museum inWashington, D.C. I translate German to English for the visitors, and I answer a lot of their questions. I am a Holocaust survivor, so I tell them about what it was like living through it. I also give speeches to college students and high school students who visit the museum and I go to schools and talk about living through the Holocaust. “This has been meaningful to me because survivors won’t be [around] much longer; we are all in our 80s and 90s, and it is rewarding to be involved in educating curious, interested visitors.” Behr finds as much pleasure in the passions he shares with his wife. “We are both avid readers and go regularly to the library and just sit and read together.And we go on trips sponsored by the Gaithersburg [Upcounty] Senior Center, like the Bavarian Inn inWestVirginia.”


Gazette SENIORS | January 2014



FERNANDO ANDRADE, 92 Takoma Park (with assistance from a translator)

What keeps Fernando Andrade happy is self-love. He does not worry. He works his body and mind, and he stays active in general doing what he enjoys. “I like dancing. I do cumbia, salsa, merengue, ba“Staying busy, chata, tango and vals. I like to walk, and I do it for one going where I like hour every day. Moving and to be and doing exercising keep me happy and these things with feeling energetic.” Being with other seniors people I like to be in his community and giving with has made back to that community have nourished Andrade’s self-es- my long life full.” teem, which gives him all the more reason to keep going, he said. He feels that through outreach, his social life grows and his life is more complete. “I exercise in the Long Branch Senior Center gym every day. I have made good friends there who have become special to me.We talk, and I read there for pleasure. And, I was a treasurer for the Long Branch Senior Center Advisory Board from 2012 to 2013. Long Branch is almost like home. “Staying busy, going where I like to be and doing these things with people I like to be with has made my long life full.”


BETH LAYTON, 95 Silver Spring Beth Layton attributes living long and well to her lifestyle, freedom to do what she wants and the love she has experienced. “I have good health. I don’t smoke, drink or play around. I had a very caring spouse, and I was always financially secure. “I also learned early in life to roll with the punches and to not ask for the impossible. Like when my husband [then boyfriend] was away duringWWII. He had to be there, but we kept our relationship going. He came back in November 1945 and we were married Aug. 3, 1946.” Being able to help others grow has been important to Layton. “I taught English at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School for 33 years …Working with students who struggle, seeing them go from a D grade to a B grade, was just as gratifying. I have been able to see people accomplish because of something I may have contributed to.” Layton’s time kicking up her heels with her late husband, Paul, is also at the core of her happiness, as she treasures those good memories. “We became square dancers and went to Europe for a month to square dance in five countries. We danced in Hawaii and many of the other United States, too.” She continues to enjoy her independence as a widow. “I drive my own car ... Having financial security to do what I want, a husband who was always there and the friends I have now have all been wonderful.”


BLANCA CORREA, 99 Bethesda (with assistance from a translator)

Blanca Correa attributes her nearly 100 good years to her perception of life and the ability to feel for others.She has sought and found pleasure in the day-to-day experiences. “What has made my life wonderful all these years is to think in a positive way, no matter what. I live every day as if it is the last one, so I appreciate it. It becomes special. “To love and to give to others always makes my life good. And not just to love others, but to love yourself … You have to love yourself first to have compassion for others. “What else I learned about living a good, long life is to have positive energy and to exercise both your body and spirit. Feeling happy and grateful is the secret.” Correa believes in doing what you like, and she has found pleasure in many activities and relationships. “For me, a lot of happiness comes from being with people, both older and young. I have made good friends through the Long Branch Senior Center where I go almost daily. “When I am not at Long Branch, I communicate with friends and family with my iPad ... “Besides taking pleasure in relationships, I find joy in painting, reading and crocheting. I like to watch the news and learn the U.S. economic outlook. “I enjoy ceramics and gardening. Exercise makes me feel fit … and I exercise at home with a DVD.”



January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS



Gazette SENIORS | January 2014



January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS



Gazette SENIORS | January 2014



January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS




RELISHING THE FOX HILL LIFESTYLE Assisted living at Sunrise at Fox Hill and condo living at Fox Hill both offer many options BY ELLEN R. COHEN

ABOVE: A panorama of Fox Hill's entrance


ethesda’s Sunrise at Fox Hill, a senior assisted living community, and Fox Hill, a condominium community, offer a unique combination of lifestyle options. Both communities are managed by Sunrise Senior Living. Active seniors 60 or over may choose independently owned condominiums; those who require more assistance may choose the assisted living rental apartments. “This is a very upscale, vibrant community,” said Associate Executive Director Jennifer Abergel, who oversees daily operations of the assisted living section and is responsible for the residents who live there. Those residents, who live in studio and one-bedroom suites on the top three floors of the seven-story building, may need help with dressing, bathing, mobility issues and medications, she said. “We provide all care, meals, services (housekeeping, laundry) and activities,” said Abergel. “We take residents to medical appointments, museums and outings, and also provide physical, occupational and speech therapy.”

Resident Mildred McDermott lived in

a Bethesda apartment before her move to Sunrise at Fox Hill two years ago when she needed more assistance. “My mom likes having the dining room on the same floor as her room,” said McDermott’s daughter, 16

Gazette SENIORS | January 2014

LEFT: Fox Hill features an artist studio.

Most Fox Hill residents come from

nearby Potomac, Chevy Chase and Bethesda, as well as NorthernVirginia; some have relocated from distances to be near family. There is no age requirement for assisted living. Fox Hill has several couples, many singles and a 106-year-old resident, noted Abergel. Seniors also enjoy the community animals—a black Labrador retriever and several cats.“We take care of them and they interact with the residents,” said Abergel.

Independent senior residents, called

Alice McDermott, who lives nearby. “She has some mobility issues and appreciates not needing an elevator to go to the dining room. She enjoys chatting with her caregivers, loves music programs, attends Mass every week and receives very good care.” Nina Rosen’s father, Donald Marks, is also in assisted living. “The staff is incredibly attentive to him; they really seem to care,” said Rosen, who moved her father from Florida in May. Marks, a retired New York City elementary school principal, is “still very active,” she said . He enjoys lifting

weights in the gym;the exercise classes on his floor;and weekly outings to museums,lunch or sightseeing.“He walks outside on his own every day. He’s almost independent, but I wouldn’t want him to be alone.” “Two floors in the building are more concentrated for memory support and dementia care. Short-stay respite intervals are possible after hospitalization or when a caregiver or family may be out of town,” said Abergel. “Respite intervals also provide an introduction to the Fox Hill lifestyle.”

“owners,” have full equity ownership in the Fox Hill condominiums and enjoy many on-site amenities.The condos overlook 16 wooded acres off River Road in a country club-like setting. “Owners must be at least 60 years old, but spouses can be younger,” said Julie Sabag, director of marketing for Fox Hill, Solutions Real Estate. “They are an active group. Some serve on organization boards, manage their companies and go to work regularly. Others, while retired, stay busy with a variety of activities.” Resident Robert Gair moved into his Fox Hill condominium in July.Living“a few See FOX HILL, 25 Gazette.Net



January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS



LEADING THE WAY Meet Asbury's Trip Leader and Designated ‘Mother’ Vivian Otto Vivian Otto met a new friend while on a trip to Sedona, Ariz.



he Travel Committee is one of more than 100 resident-led groups at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, and with it, Vivian Otto has been leading trips for more than t 15 years. Otto, 88, has been at Asbury for 22 years. “After we put oour girls through college, my husband and I started to travel in Europe, and that’s when I really caught the bug,” she said. After h he passed away, and Otto reChev Chase United Methodist tired from Chevy s was director of Christian Church where she 1 years, she went to places education for 18 like India, China and Korea.Then she began leading travel experiences e for others; as of December she had led more than 100 December, trips fro from Asbury. Eu European adventures have includ a trip to Ireland and a river cluded cru cruise on the Danube. She’s ta taken groups to Canada, California, Hawaii, many national parks, and on 10 cruises of various destinations, including the coast of Maine and other points in New England. This April, she and 18 fellow Asbury residents plan to take a cruise from

Charleston, S.C., to Jacksonville, Fla. “Every day, we [will] stop at a place to explore, like Beaufort, S.C.; Hilton Head Island, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; St. Simons Island, Ga.; Jekyll Island, Ga.; and Amelia Island, Fla.,” said Otto, who will once again be leading the trip. The Asbury Travel Committee organizes a lot of day and overnight trips, too, taking residents to Mid-Atlantic destinations such as Annapolis; Gettysburg, Pa.; andWilliamsburg,Va. Asbury travel leaders work through professionals, such as American Cruise Lines, a small-ship cruise line headquartered in Connecticut. Travel professionals there handle reservations and planning, and when appropriate, expert guides lead the trips. “I do the organizing here at Asbury,” said Otto. “And I don’t tell them about the cathedral or statue. I’m the one that tells them where to be for the bus pickup, or what time the tour begins … I’m the mother,” she said with a laugh. When she’s not keeping the group organized on various trips, or on outings to dinner theaters, Arena Stage or The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Otto works as a substitute driver for Meals on Wheels. She also volunteers atWashington Grove Elementary School in Gaithersburg two days a week, working with first- and second-grade classes on reading and spelling. Besides these activities, she helps neighbors and friends downsize and declutter.




Gazette SENIORS | January 2014

Otto, right, has led more than 100 trips from Asbury Methodist Village since she moved there 22 years ago. Gazette.Net

JANUARY 27th - 31st


An Asbury group gathers at the Passauer Glasmuseum in Germany, one of the stops on a Danube river cruise.

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Jan. 27th - 31st

Jan. 27th - 31st


While on a cruise in Alaska, Asbury residents stopped to try their luck at panning for gold just outside the city of Fairbanks.

“I’m not happy sitting,” she said. “I enjoy doing things. And I wouldn’t do all this if I didn’t love it, and I’m very blessed with good health.” As trip leader, Otto puts up posters around Asbury that advertise the planned excursions. She handles money for deposits and payments from travelers and answers the many questions that come up.The committee plans trips six months ahead of time, and she and her fellow committee members make lists and itineraries. “You have to have that kind of person, otherwise you would never get anything done,” said Pat Hilmoe, 90, Asbury’sTravel Committee chairperson, who has known Otto for 50 years. In November, Otto led 25 neighbors to Gazette.Net

NewYork City, a regular trip for the Asbury Travel Committee.They visited Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the Federal Reserve Bank of NewYork building and the site of 9/11. “Every year I do something different.We’ve visited the NewYork Stock Exchange, the United Nations,The Cloisters museum and Ellis Island. Eyre Bus, Tour & Travel arranges where we eat and sleep on the three-day trip, and I make sure they’re all where they need to be on time.” So what’s her favorite destination? She said everyone asks her that, but she has no personal favorite. “Every country is so different. But people the world over are all the same. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, and everyone appreciates kindness.”

Exp. 1/31/14


January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS






“If you only make the minimum payment on your credit card, you will find yourself

PAYING BACK DOUBLE OR MORE of what you initially borrowed.”

- Vee Johnson, community outreach liaison in Fairfax, Va.



Gazette SENIORS | January 2014

hen seniors find themselves challenged by credit card debt, it’s often due to using cards for high medical and prescription expenses and to helping adult children, said Joanne Kerstetter, a spokesperson for Money Management International, a HUD-approved, nonprofit, credit counseling firm in Rockville.“Their financial problems are so serious that the number of seniors filing for bankruptcy is growing faster than any other age group.” Credit card debt is driving this increase in bankruptcy filings by those 65 and older.Two-thirds of elder debtors cite credit card interest and fees as the reason for declaring bankruptcy, according to a 2010 study from The University of Michigan Law School.The median credit card debt for seniors filing for bankruptcy was $22,562, compared with $13,615 for those under 65. While seniors comprise just 7 percent of bankruptcy filers, their numbers have been growing, according to the study. From 1991 to 2007, such filings increased 177.8 percent for those 65 to 74 and 566.7 percent for those 75 and older. The recent recession zapped the buying power of consumers, especially those over 50, many of whom pulled their money out of the stock market.“While the market has come back around, many seniors who took their money out didn’t put it back in and aren’t benefitting from the rise,” said Kerstetter. As a result, “Americans 50+ use credit cards as a high-interest ‘plastic safety net’ to cope with contingencies such as emergency car and home repairs or unexpected medical bills,” noted a January 2013 report from AARP’s Public Policy Institute. Among middle-income Americans with credit card debt, those 50 or older had an average combined balance of $8,278 in 2012, compared with $6,258 for those under 50.

SOURCES OF THE PROBLEM Medical costs contribute heavily to credit card debt. Half of all indebted elder

Why the burden is greatest for seniors households carry debt—for prescriptions, dental work, doctor visits or hospital stays—on their cards, averaging $893, according to AARP. “One hospitalization can have a devastating effect on finances,” saidVee Johnson, community outreach liaison with Fairfax County’s Department of Cable and Consumer Services. Older adults also are more likely to take on credit card debt to help family members.About 23 percent of seniors report using their cards to pay off the debts of relatives, more than double the rate of those under 50, according to AARP. Others, “caught in the desire to make sure their children—living at home or on their own—have more than they had, use their retirement to pay for a dream wedding or the finest college,” said Johnson. With their post-employment savings reduced, they begin to rely on credit cards. Another factor contributing to credit card use is the increasing number of seniors entering retirement with unretired debt. Just 24 percent of homeowners 55 or older had mortgage debt in 1992. By 2010, that number had jumped to 42 percent, according to a 2013 report by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute inWashington, D.C. Use of a credit card constitutes a loan, with interest rates generally above those for mortgage and auto loans and home equity lines of credit.“Credit card interest rates range from about 7 percent up to 30 percent,” said Johnson.

FINDING SOLUTIONS When AARP asked indebted seniors for the annual percentage rate (APR) on their credit card with the highest balance, the responses showed 21 percent with an APR of 10 percent or less, 25 percent with an APR of 10.1 to 15 percent, 22 percent with an APR of 15.1 to 20 percent, and 24 percent with an APR greater than 20 percent. “Credit cards, if used appropriately, can be a good way of using someone else’s money for a short period, up to 30 days,” said Johnson. But those who find themselves carrying balances from one month Gazette.Net

to the next need to explore ways to get out from under the debt. “If you only make the minimum payment on your credit card, you will find yourself paying back double or more of what you initially borrowed.” Acknowledging and accepting one’s predicament is the first step toward digging out of debt. “No one wants to admit they made a bad decision or acknowledge they can no longer live the lifestyle that they’ve become accustomed to,” said Johnson. While some older adults find it embarrassing to talk about money matters, especially debt, it’s important to do so, whether with an adult child or third party. “Everyone has financial difficulties from time to time. The best thing people can do is ask for assistance, sooner rather than later,” said Kerstetter, especially if debt is continuing to mount. “We can intervene and set up a repayment program with a creditor, which can take the pressure off, allowing them to focus on a budget.” A budget, or spending plan, is a road map to debt retirement. “You need to know what money is coming in and going out.That’s the first step to getting your financial house in order. If you’re not experienced with or methodical about money management, get help from a reputable agency,” said Johnson. Fairfax County’s Consumer Affairs division “can put you in touch with organizations that are faithbased, nonprofit or self-help.” “It’s important for seniors to prioritize debt,” said Kerstetter. “Mortgage or rent payment is the top priority. Utilities, food and insurance are other priorities. Unsecured debt, which includes credit card debt, is lower.”

WAYS TO RELIEVE DEBT Climbing out from under credit card debt takes time. “Forget the commercials that say, ‘Call us in the morning and we’ll wipe out your debt by night,’” said Johnson. “They’re playing on your vulnerability.You’re already in debt.You don’t need to be spending more money to get out of it.” There are many strategies that older adults use to eliminate credit card debt, and they vary based on both financial circumstance and personal comfort, according to Kerstetter. “If they have a whole life insurance policy, they might cash out. Some seniors go back and get part-time jobs. Others might sell unneeded assets.” Using a tax refund to retire credit card debt is the most common strategy, employed by 43 percent of older adults, according toAARP.Nearly 40 percent tapped Gazette.Net

“The best thing people can do is

ASK FOR ASSISTANCE, sooner rather than later.”

- Joanne Kerstetter, a spokesperson for Money Management International

their savings and 29 percent worked extra hours or got another job. Some chose to use their house as collateral. A home equity line of credit was used by 9 percent of seniors to retire credit card debt, according to AARP, while a refinanced or second mortgage was the choice of 7 percent.Those contemplating a reverse mortgage should consider “consulting with their heirs,” said Kerstetter. “When children realize the extent of their parents’ financial situation, they might prefer to assist.” About one-fifth of seniors reported entering into a settlement agreement with a credit card company, which simultaneously reduces one’s debt and credit score. An almost equal number, at some point in their lives, filed for bankruptcy, AARP reported. Adding to the stress of credit card indebtedness are calls from debt collectors.Just over half of all seniors have received a call from a debt collector at some point in their lives.“It’s important to learn what the law is in terms of what debt collectors can and cannot do,”said Johnson. “There are laws to protect us when abuses come into play.” “You should understand your rights when it comes to unsecured debt,” said Kerstetter,“and don’t let someone talk you into making a payment that you’re unsure or uncomfortable about.” Those feeling pressured should consult with a reputable counseling agency. Getting out of debt and staying out of debt requires both commitment and lifestyle changes, said Johnson. Beware of the “frenemy,” she said, “friends that act like enemies when they say, ‘Let’s go to the spa’ or ‘Let’s go to the casino.’ Avoid hanging with people who spend money on wants and not just needs.” With “advertisements, easy credit and companies trying to sell us an upgrade on something that’s working perfectly fine or we don’t have enough of, our self-worth has become tied to things and stuff,” said Johnson. “We need to say that’s not what we’re about and get back to the basics. Money is a tool to help us live a satisfying life, not to impress others or keep up with the Joneses—as the Joneses, I’ve been told, are broke.”


January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS






T 1906308


Gazette SENIORS | January 2014

he intent of new rules governing Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) is to encourage the use of a reverse mortgage as a tool for long-term financial planning as opposed to short-term crisis management.The changes “simplify the process, add some protections and help seniors plan their finances in a better way,� said Tony Miller, a reverse mortgage specialist with Credit Union Mortgage Association in Fairfax,Va. To make the loans safer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees the

HECM program, has lowered the size of loans; limited the amount of loan proceeds that can be tapped during the first year; increased fees; and, in some cases, required escrow accounts for taxes, insurance and repairs. These changes could put the loans out of reach for seniors with more modest amounts of equity in their homes, according to Song Hutchins, president and CEO of the HUD-sanctioned Asian-American Homeownership Counseling Inc. in Rockville.

Reverse mortgages have existed in

one form or another for roughly 50 years, according to the National Reverse MortGazette.Net


gage Lenders Association (NRMLA). Seniors whose incomes are fixed may turn to reverse mortgages as their expenses and the cost of living increase. “In my experience, most people use a reverse mortgage to improve their cash flow and eliminate their mortgage payment,” said Hutchins. Then there are those “who want to remain in their home but need help and access the equity to pay for a caregiver.” An HECM, the most popular type of reverse mortgage and the only one insured by the federal government, allows borrowers 62 or older to cash in on a portion of the equity in their house without having to sell the property, move out of it or make monthly loan payments, according to NRMLA. The loan comes due upon the death of the borrower or when the borrower sells the house or has not lived in it for a year. The final loan balance includes the amount borrowed, plus annual insurance premiums, servicing fees and interest. So, by the time the borrower sells or leaves the house, the amount owed is more than what originally was borrowed. But, no Gazette.Net

matter how large the loan balance grows, the total that must be repaid may not exceed the appraised value of the home or sale price. Any loss is absorbed by the federal government. More than 800,000 HECMs have been made since the program began in 1990. The number of loans peaked at 114,692 in 2009. That’s when the economic recession led to “demographic and behavioral changes” among borrowers that increased loan defaults and threatened the viability of the HECM program, according to HUD. As a result, the agency modified several of the program’s financial components in September and added a financial assessment requirement as of Jan. 13. The purpose of the financial assessment is to identify prospective borrowers who may have difficulty paying property taxes and homeowners insurance (T&I), which can lead to default. “This is not a pass or fail test, the way I see it,” said Miller. “What HUD is trying to do is find borrowers who may need to set aside funds to


See MORTGAGE, 24 January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS


MORTGAGE, continued from 23 be able to makeT&I payments during the life of the loan.” The amount of any mandated escrow is based on the life expectancy of the youngest borrower and may come from loan proceeds. While that would reduce the amount of cash available to the homeowner, said Hutchins, it protects against default, helping the borrower remain in the house as long as he is able.

To make the loans safer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the HECM program, has lowered the size of loans; limited the amount of loan proceeds that can be tapped during the first year; increased fees; and, in some cases, required escrow accounts for taxes, insurance and repairs.

Set-asides also may be required for

home repairs. “A FHA (Federal Housing Administration) appraisal is required and the house must be safe, sanitary and sound,” said Miller. “If there’s something that needs to be fixed, we’ll allow you to go to settlement but put funds in an escrow account and give you a year from closing to make the repairs.” The new, smaller loans and limits on the amount that initially can be withdrawn stem from an HECM loan analysis. “HUD discovered that loans where all, or a substantial portion, of the available funds are disbursed at closing have a higher tendency to end in default,” reported NRMLA. The new rules limit


how much a borrower can take at closing or in the first year to 60 percent of the amount eligible to be withdrawn. There are exceptions, such as when an existing mortgage or other lien on the property exists. HUD requires that borrowers get out from under these debts before obtaining an HECM loan. In such cases, borrowers can withdraw enough to pay off their mandatory obligations plus 10 percent of the principal

limit. For example, assuming a principal limit of $200,000 and an existing loan of $120,000, a borrower would be allowed to take a total of $140,000 in the first year or 70 percent of the principal limit. Increased initial mortgage insurance premiums are tied to the percent of principal accessed in the first year. By staying within 60 percent, the borrower’s upfront insurance payment is 0.5 percent of the maximum claim amount (the house’s

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appraised value, up to $625,000). If he exceeds the 60-percent threshold, the premium rises to 2.5 percent of the maximum claim amount. In either case, a borrower must pay an annual insurance premium equal to 1.25 percent of the mortgage balance over the life of the loan. Under the new rules, a homeowner may borrow the full amount for which he qualifies or a portion of that amount. Should he choose the latter, he would not be able to access any additional funds in the future without refinancing, according to Miller. A borrower may take the proceeds as a lump sum, draw on them through a line of credit or receive a monthly payment. Determining how to draw down the loan proceeds or whether to apply for a reverse mortgage loan at all are covered during mandatory financial counseling, one component of the HECM program that has not changed. “Counseling is a great thing to do, even if you don’t take the loan,” said Miller. “I am ultimately trying to sell you a product. While I’d love to do your loan, you should go to counseling and get educated.Then we can talk.”


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FOX HILL, continued from 16 miles down the road in Glen Echo Heights for 44 years,” he said he had observed the community being constructed and considered his future needs before deciding to sell his home. Originally from Massachusetts, Gair remained in Washington after graduate school and is now “on permanent sabbatical, recharging my batteries after being with the U.S. government.” Gair enjoys movies, foreign affairs discussions, monthly Sunday brunches “and going downstairs for dinner.” Sydelle and Jack Sipress came to Fox Hill five years ago from New Jersey.They lived in their home for 42 years “until we decided not to be like our parents, who refused to move until it was too late,” said Sydelle Sipress. “We are near our son and his family in Chevy Chase, D.C., and the lifestyle is pleasant here.” Sydelle Sipress taught at a community college for 32 years and now teaches poetry and classical literature classes at Fox Hill. She attends foreign affairs talks, lectures and interfaith discussions, and serves on several committees. She looks forward to her grandchild’s visits on school holidays and enjoys dining at the Fox Hill


Fox Hill boasts a wine cellar and tasting room.

restaurants a few times a week. “The lifestyle here caters to aware, awake, vital, vivacious people,” she said. The condominiums range from one-, two- and three-bedrooms, both with and without a den. All units have fully equipped kitchens, washers and dryers, and are located in one mid-rise building. A monthly service fee covers amenities, such as a business center, fitness center, heated indoor pool and concierge services. There is also a hair salon, outdoor putting green, on-site wine cellar and tasting room, artists’ studios, a recording studio, and performing arts center for large gatherings. “This is luxurious, upscale living with an eye on getting a bit older,” said Sabag, adding that $630 of the monthly service fee is set aside to use at any of the several dining venues, bar, spa services or car washes. A car service is available for those who don’t wish to drive. Pets are permitted. Lila Shapiro has owned her condominium for more than four years. She and her husband lived in the Washington area for about 25 years; when he was ill, the couple felt that a change would make life easier. Unfortunately, he passed away before moving to the condo.

“It was a good move,” she said. “If I had remained alone in my Potomac house, it would have been even more depressing.” Shapiro shares her condo with her two cats. She serves on the Activities Committee; is active in ArtWorkshop planning; and enjoys music, lectures, concerts and theater programs. She particularly likes water aerobics and said, “the warm pool helps rangeof-motion issues.” Owners requiring temporary help may opt for on-site room service, concierge service for difficult tasks, hourly care from an outside company, on-site physical therapy and other short-term options.“Owners control how they manage their care,”said Sabag. “… Assisted living is available on a temporary basis,” she said. “If a permanent move to assisted living/memory care is necessary, an owner can rent or sell his/ her condominium.” 8300 Burdette Road Bethesda 20817 301-968-1800, assisted living and memory care 301-968-1750, independent condominiums




January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS


BASKETBALL, continued from 5 toWilson. “Many of us also compete at theVirginia Senior Games, as well as the National Senior Games and the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics.” He said many of the players also participate in the summer softball leagues in Fairfax County,Va. The James Lee Community Center has been a meeting place for senior basketball in Fairfax County for the past six years, said GregWilliams, the senior center’s director. “Players join in by word of mouth, and it seems like this is the one place they want to come,” said Williams, citing the new facilities, glass backboards and quality wood floor in the center’s gym. Basketball leagues are not just reserved for men. In the NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association, teams play with a slightly smaller ball than the men. NOVA United has more than 50 women players and seven official teams for the 2013-2014 season, according to Helen White, 60, who organizes the league play. “Our players range from 48 to 77 and live in Virginia, Maryland,

the District of Columbia and West Virginia,” she said. “Players have opportunities to play on three-women teams and compete in three-onthree games and tournaments in five-year age groups.” During the 2013 National Senior Games basketball tournament, four NOVA United teams placed in the 70-plus, 65-plus, 60-plus and 55-plus age groups, said White. “If you want to play or learn, there’s a spot for you, and we’ll find you a team or a program.” Teams practice Fridays at the James Lee Community Center. For more information on senior basketball in Montgomery County, visit or For more information on men’s senior basketball in Fairfax County, call the James Lee Community Center at 703-534-3387. For more information on NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association, contact Helen White at


Barb Chadbourne shoots over Sue Shepard during a game at The George Washington University.



A player drives past his opponent at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center.

Jackie Stephens, founder of NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association, drives past the opposition during a game at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

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Gazette SENIORS | January 2014




January 2014 | Gazette SENIORS




Gazette SENIORS | January 2014


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Gazette Seniors, Montgomery County

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