Someone once said that the younger generations can’t decide whether they should treat older men like the Pope or like Gabby Hayes.

Those of us reaching into the advanced years have solid numbers of crotchety old coots among our contemporaries. But it’s in advanced age that most of every society’s wisdom emerges. 

Wisdom is a rare and highly regarded commodity, but it doesn’t come automatically with age. Sociologists and psychologists around the world have studied the concept of wisdom and worked to discover the circumstances that foster it.

Questions and Answers

Q:  My friend just got a new Medicare prescription drug plan and I think I want the same one, but I was told I can’t sign up until October.  Why did he get to change but I can’t?

 

A:  If your friend is enrolled in the low-income subsidy program, Extra Help, he or she would be allowed to change drug plans throughout the year.  Additionally, there are several special circumstances that can create a “special enrollment period” for someone on Medicare which allows them to change or add a prescription drug plan (Part D) outside of open enrollment.  Essentially, special circumstances are actions/events that impact whether an eligible individual can continue getting their prescriptions in the way they have been.  So for instance, changes in where someone lives, loss of spousal coverage due to death or divorce, or changes in coverage received through employer, or union, drug plans are all examples of such special circumstances, and there are other situations which also qualify.

Sharing a low beach fire with grandchildren on a late summer night while watching a red crescent moon set silently into the lake is unbeatable. Far from any town or light, as blackness descends, the night sky unlocks a limitless treasure trove of stars; unimaginable in distance or dimension. We crane our necks to try to take it in. The vastness and density of stars, milky way, occasional satellite or rare prize of a shooting star bind us in common awe. It’s a prize night.

In the last couple months I have had the privilege and heartbreak of honoring two different senior volunteers at their respective funerals. One served in Benton Harbor and the other in Niles, so beyond seeing each other at monthly meetings, they likely didn’t know each other well. But they had much in common. They both lived their lives to the fullest and never stopped generously sharing their lives with others.

Foster Grandpa Larry Davis, known to everyone as Papa Davis, came into the Foster Grandparent Program in July of 2013. He volunteered 30 hours a week in the Benton Harbor Area Schools, mentoring students in 3rd grade for a time, and then in kindergarten. Before that he had been a school bus driver and knew everyone in his neighborhood and community. In the summers, his volunteer service was with the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor.

Aging is a good thing and every stage of life is one to be valued. That said, I admit that when someone says, “You don’t look your age, how do you do it?” I’m glad.

My usual response is to tell them it’s due to “clean livin’.” For some reason, this almost always elicits a chuckle or even an outright belly laugh. Perhaps these people know me better than I think.

Questions and Answers

Q:  I would like my mother to go to adult daycare.  Are there any programs that help pay for this?

Two seemingly unrelated stories recently came my way.  They tie together.

The first was from a friend, concerned about a smart woman in her nineties used to making decisions and managing her life, who found herself unable to access needed medical support. This woman, a retired nurse with complex medical issues, felt frustrated and increasingly vulnerable; understanding what needed to happen, yet unable to find physicians accepting new patients.

The second story was about a twenty-six year old woman launching a career studying age. As an undergraduate freshman, she was horrified to discover people who need assistance with common household tasks or bodily functions, often felt shame over their condition. She came to view the world through a social justice lens and began to figure out what effects living in an ageist society had upon assumptions about life, death, and dignity.

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