Sense US!

Packed refrigerators, cabin fever, grumpy kids, depressed adults, weird dreams, zoom fatigue, dusty houses, oxygen meters, piled cardboard, emerging beards, unintentional balliage, broken washers, aimless walks, mask rage…..

Amidst all the concerns of this venal virus, yet another casualty with long lasting consequences is the 2020 Census. It’s that old reliable index of population counts – every ten years for the past eight decades.

Borrring! BUT brilliant! How else to know how many Representatives in Congress; where to put in highways or railways; how much federal money to give to older people; where companies should invest based on generational growth and demographics?

Page from the United States federal census for New York’s South Ward, 1790
Courtesy Museum of New York City

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Southern white slave owners gained more electoral votes in presidential elections by devising the disgraceful solution to increase their representation: by counting three-fifths of each of their enslaved persons.

I’ve been pushing and promoting and tracking this typically sleeper issue for the past six months (we created a preview/tutorials called EasyCensusHelp.org) to help increase the count among older people – now doubly hit with digital timidity, fewer post boxes, and fear of allowing in strangers – and yet to mention confusing mailings, conflicting information, and shortened timetables.

I realized and tweeted the truth – that after this pandemic has gone away, the consequences of the count will endure – in less funding, representation, and access.

TEN YEARS of deprivation because of six months of inaction. What would help, I wonder? Threats? Celebrities? door-to-door? All we could think of was a safe, friendly test drive. So far, those needing most support are the least likely to submit their information. on this date, most states are still missing about a third of their people. Here’s where I found that (how do they know the percent if they don’t know the actual numbers today?)

And the whole thing ends in 60 days!

“But I don’t want anyone to see me looking like this!”

The psychology behind techno phobia

As  boomers share their “quarentinis” with friends on Face Time, work continues via Zoom, and Millennials Instagram selfies of their workouts at home, younger generations plead with their older relatives to get online and video chat. Even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines ask younger generations to use social media, phones and videos to support older Americans.

But have you tried? Are you frustrated? Is your parent annoyed and frustrated, too. “I’m just a Luddite – i don’t know how to work this thing.”

kids

Do not blame your elders!!! Have you seen that hysterical YouTube viddeo where 17- year old students cannot figure out how to work a rotary phone! 160,000 people watched this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHNEzndgiFI

Those of us who have been riding on the information highway for years have accumulated vocabulary, instincts and habits that inform our intuition  — we instinctively know to touch the top of the screen to find hidden buttons, and such.  But those who were retired  in the 90’s or were not in a situation to have or need the Internet have built up resistance and work-arounds. Others have devices but use them for very limited purposes. “Just call me on the phone, darling; you don’t need  to see my face to know I love you.” One woman in a GoL focus group said “Just put the check in the mail and the grand kids will you call you.” Another was fiercely against learning: “If they get me on this thing [computer] they’ll never come to visit!”.

But then came the Spring of 2020 forced isolation.  Now, everyone is motivated and it’s hard to teach long distance. The younger troops are worried. The grandparents are tired of their nagging. And embarrassed and confused about the technology, even if it means seeing the family.

Perhaps these sound familiar – and perhaps the responses may deflect them.

  1. “It’s too complicated and I’m too old to learn”

You build brain cells by trying!

2. “Let’s just talk on the phone – I’m a mess anyway.”

The camera spins in two directions. Show me the empty street out your window.

3.  “I just have an e-reader. and we don’t have WiFi or whatever.”

Do you have a smartphone?

4.  I can’t remember my password.

You wont need a password.

(Or if you do, start over. Hit can’t remember password and create a new one! write it down. You’ll  be surprised how well you do!) Older adults frequently underestimate the power of their own memories, leading to some bad habits that fail to make the best use of their minds, says Dayna Touron at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Eventually, that lack of confidence may become a self-fulfilling prophecy – as your memory skills slowly decline through lack of use. However, she has found that simply giving the older adults feedback on their performance – and underlining the accuracy of their memory – can encourage them to rely more on their recall, as reported by the BBC.

Of course I’d like everyone to somehow get their parents on to our simplified training app to give them skills and confidence without your help.

Easy Tablet Help For Seniors in Apple App store

Easy Tablet Help For Seniors in Google Play store

(www.generationsonline.org/gol4ipador 4 android.)

But the real point is, to help get your elders online, first get inside their heads, before you try to get inside their space! As with most things, winning the psychological battle often ends the war. And in this war on the Pandemic, we wish you luck and ease to safe, healthy times for you and yours.

 

 

 

Was it the hair or the humor? Why was Barbara Bush so popular?

800px-Barbara_Bush_at_LBJ_Presidential_Libraryphoto by Lauren Gerson; public domain

In the white house and after, Barbara Bush  was admired and adored. 83% of Americans rated Bush favorably throughout her time as first lady, making her by far the most favorably viewed first lady in recent U.S. history, says Gallup.

Makes me wonder if she was as popular to the masses when she was younger. In this 1966 picture when George Bush won his seat for Congress, she looks somewhat startled and passive, smiling with her mouth but not with her eyes!

George_and_Barbara_Bush_in_Houston,_Texas_on_the_night_which_George_Bush_was_elected_to_Congress_-_NARA_-_186373.tif

According to The New York Times, after she became first lady, she said her support for the Bush administration had limits: “I won’t dye my hair, change my wardrobe or lose weight.”  I bet that’s when she gained her popularity! An inspiration for us to revel in aging – to let the decades give us license to speak our minds and look as we wish.

Another outspoken octogenarian, Madeleine Albright, former first female Secretary of State, uses salty language unapologetically and says she found her voice only at age 55.  Do you think there’s hope for us – that Baby Boomer and younger women can one day brag about the wrinkles rather than Botox them? As Dr. Albright says on her book tour — “See something? ; say something; DO something!”

You can’t be worrying about what others think of you when you’re busy doing something significant.

Or is that just my excuse?

Medicare 101: What You Need to Know

A guest blog from Boomer Benefits

Most people know that Medicare is a national health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for certain individuals with disabilities or serious health conditions. Outside of that though, we don’t really have to think about Medicare much until we are turning 65 ourselves. Then we learn that Medicare has 4 parts and 10 standardized supplement plans and literally dozens of drug plan choices in every state.

Figuring out all these moving parts can be overwhelming because most of us have never had to make such complex health insurance decisions before.

Fortunately, while it seems confusing at first, Medicare actually works a lot like the coverage that we’ve each had before from a former employer. It includes hospital, outpatient, and drug coverage. There are premiums that we pay for certain parts, and there are some deductibles and copays as well.

Let’s break it down into pieces to make it simpler.

Original Medicare Benefits and Premiums

Back in 1965 when Medicare was created, they broke into two parts. We still call this Original Medicare today. Parts A and B are the basic building blocks of Medicare coverage. Part A covers inpatient hospital expenses including skilled nursing facilities. Part B covers outpatient medical benefits, such as preventive care, doctor’s visits, lab work and even surgeries. If Medicare is the primary insurance, people need both parts.

As long as an individual has worked and paid FICA taxes for at least 10 years in the U.S, Part A will cost nothing.  Those taxes have pre-paid the Part A coverage. People who don’t have the 10 years work history can qualify under their spouse’s work history if it is sufficient. They can also buy into Part A.

Part B has a monthly premium that is based on the modified, adjusted household gross income. For most new enrollees, this premium is $134/month, but it can be higher if earnings fall into a higher income bracket. Check out this chart to see the four tiers of income and their associated premiums: Medicare Costs page.

Medicare Cost-Sharing

Whenever beneficiaries access their Medicare benefits, there will be some cost-sharing that they are responsible for. Medicare Part A has a $1340 deductible in 2018. If someone has more than one hospital stay in a year that is separated by at least 60 days outside of the hospital, they could pay this deductible more than once. Also, if a hospital stay lasts longer than 60 consecutive days, Medicare begins to charge a daily hospital copay that is quite expensive. Benefits run out at 150 days.

Part B also has a deductible, but it is a much smaller annual deductible. After that deductible has been met, Medicare will pay 80% of approved outpatient expenses. The Medicare beneficiary is responsible for the other 20%

For this reason, many people enroll in some form of additional coverage. There are Medicare supplement plans that pay after Medicare to help fill in the gaps. These plans have no networks. Policyholders can see any Medicare provider in the nation, which is nearly 900,000 providers.

When a person first enrolls in Medicare, they have an opportunity to get a Medigap plan with no health questions asked. This is called the Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment.

There are also Medicare Advantage options, which are called Part C of Medicare.  These plans offer al the same Part A and B benefits, but that care is provided by a private insurance company instead of through Original Medicare. These plans usually have smaller networks in local areas but may have lower premiums than Medicare plans. Read more about those options here: Medicare Advantage vs Medigap.

Part D Drug Plans

For over 40 years, people on Medicare did not have outpatient drug coverage. Luckily Congress created Medicare Part D and rolled it out in 2006, so we now have very good Part D options.

Part D functions kind of like a pharmacy card. It gives beneficiaries access to a formulary of medications. Instead of paying the entire cost of the medication, enrollees pay just a copay. Beneficiaries enroll in Part D directly with an insurance company.

Every state has multiple Part D plans to choose from, but Medicare’s website has a Plan Finder Tool to help individuals find one that is cost-effective and carries all the needed medications.

Part D is voluntary, but we strongly encourage enrollment for anyone that doesn’t have another means of drug coverage, such as VA benefits. There are many expensive medications these days for conditions like cancer and chemotherapy that cost thousands and would be likely out of reach without Part D coverage.

No One Has to Go It Alone

It would be great if Medicare offered classes to teach us about how all this works. Since it doesn’t, you learn as much as you can through reading and researching. Start by visiting your local insurance agent or checking out Medicare’s website at www.medicare.gov.

 Danielle Kunkle is a co-founder at Boomer Benefits, where her team helps Baby Boomers navigate their entry into Medicare.