When Blessed, Share Your Good Fortune

I love to garden. I’m not sure my family even understands the reasons why I spend so much time tending the backyard crops. It’s not (entirely) to get away. But it is some quality “me” time after work and on weekends.

Whether gardening can save you money is often a topic of debate at my house in the spring. This is because my return on investment largely depends on what I grow and, to a lesser extent, the weather and pestilence.

My garden is doing well this year. I planted tomatoes (Cherokee purple, Roma and beefsteak), peppers
(Anaheim, poblano, jalapeno, tabasco, sugar rush peach, habanero and purple, orange, green and chocolate bells) as well as herbs (basil, mint, parsley, rosemary, chives, thyme, dill and oregano).

For some reason, my squash, cucumbers and long beans suffered from a failure to thrive, so I cleared them out to make room for my fall/winter garden.

To date, I know I’ve broken even, with a few months of heavy production remaining. That means my wife is happy about the healthy P & L.

I also garden for my health. A diet rich in vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet can reduce the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and may even protect against certain cancers – that’s what I tell myself as I’m eating cauliflower. Consuming vegetables instead of high-calorie food helps cut total calories, too.

I know that my vegetables are pesticide-free and picked at their peak of freshness. I even make my own compost that goes back into the soil.

I also garden for exercise. Holding the hose is no real effort, but weeding focuses my muscles on stretching, posture, repetitive motion and even resistance principles similar to those in weight training. Gardening doesn’t burn 20,000 calories, but I bet I hit 200 calories an hour.

My favorite reason for gardening is social. I like to share the bounty with friends and neighbors. I’ve helped others design raised beds and address gardening challenges.

On a job interview I once was asked, “If you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be and why?” No generic oak, maple or blue spruce for me. I immediately answered, “A fruit tree.” I was asked to clarify my answer to which I replied, “A peach tree.”

Growing up, my parents planted two peach trees in the backyard. Nothing happened the first few years, and, then one spring we had the first hint of peaches. Each year the crop got bigger, then there’d be an off year when insects or disease would hinder fruit production. When we had a big year, I’d pick the peaches and put an equal amount in paper lunch sacks. I’d write the names of each of our neighbors on the sacks and deliver them door-to-door.

We were blessed with more than we needed, so we shared our good fortune with our friends. That lesson has stayed with me for more than 50 years. That lesson is also why I support the Tulsa Area United Way.

Because the TAUW raises funds that go directly to local services, hundreds of thousands of lives are touched, changed and even saved through area contributions. And dollars raised in our community stay in our community to help build a better place for us all to live, work and raise our families.

The Broken Arrow Senior Center is one of 59 partner agencies supported by the Tulsa Area United Way. We receive much-needed yearly funding from TAUW. The United Way also provides information technology in the form of hardware, software, database, website and ongoing support of all these systems. It is impossible to assign a dollar amount to these services.

I know the TAUW saves the BA Senior Center thousands of dollars yearly, making it possible for the Center to be accessible and affordable to seniors in our area. In this respect, the Center and the United Way truly are partners.

Each year we honor that partnership by helping the United Way help us. Rather than just setting out jars to collect your loose change over the next few months, you will hear more about how the United Way impacts not just your life through the Center but how the organization impacts the lives of thousands of Oklahomans.

Being blessed with more than we needed is truly the lesson I learned 50 years ago when passing out those bags of peaches.

If you feel blessed and would like to support the TAUW financially or through volunteering, please stop in the office.

Questions Abound When Considering Medicare Options

One of the benefits of membership at the Broken Arrow Senior Center is access to information. That knowledge comes in many forms – from friends, activity leaders, company representatives, industry experts, medical professionals – and, who knows, maybe even from me every once in a while.

This past month, the topic of Medicare has popped up a lot – at the bank, the pharmacy, a Zumba class and a United Way meeting. Now it might be that I’m just paying better attention, but it could be that the time to make any changes or to opt in is rapidly approaching.

I realize that we are a 55-plus organization and that you become Medicare-eligible at 65. However, the average age of our members is 73, so we’re going to spend a bit of time this month on the topic of Medicare. We know many of you will be considering an array options and changes so you can sign up for the coverage that meets your health care needs as well as your budget. There’s a more in-depth article about Medicare on page 13.

It’s up to you to get ready. It’s up to you to be informed. It’s up to you to be your own advocate. And if you miss the deadline – especially if you are new to being 65 – you may end up paying much higher premiums.

Did I mention that you must do a good deal of homework before you can even determine what option is best for you? To help narrow your scope of priorities, I’ve collected some of the top questions to consider when you are choosing between Medicare and Medicare Advantage or between different Medicare Advantage plans.

Will you be able to use your current doctors? Are they in the plan’s network? What if they’re not in the network? What about specialists? Do you need a referral first? Is your preferred hospital, home health/home help agency, senior and skilled nursing facility in the plan’s network? What if you need care and you’re out of state or out of the country?

What costs should you expect? What about premiums, deductibles, co-pays and your out-of-pocket max? Should you find an option for dental, hearing and vision coverage?

Before you’ve barely started exploring your options, you’re already considering more than a dozen questions. You could spend an entire day just contemplating prescription drug coverage.

What about prescription drug coverage premiums, deductibles and co-payments? How much are brand-name drugs? Generics? Can you use your pharmacy? Can you get your drugs through mail order? Delivery? Compounding? Canada? Can you get 30- or 90-day supplies? What about when you travel?

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider. Over the next few months, we are going to provide opportunities for our members to explore these questions. You’ll be able to learn from industry experts and get help finding the right plan that fits your unique needs.

You should never feel alone in this journey. Be on the lookout for more details in the weeks and months to come.

Make Certain Your Shoes Fit Right

Incorrectly fitting footwear is common in older adults and is a risk factor not only for foot problems but also for falls.

When I look at the footwear that many of the BASC members have on, it concerns me – especially when I see shoes that I know were purchased during the first Bush administration. Many older adults do not wear the best footwear, and inappropriate footwear can impair balance and alter gait.

According to one study, muscle weakness, gait deficits and balance deficits accounted for three of the top five risk factors for falling among older adults.

Having run half marathons for years, I’ve always prided myself on having the right footwear. However, as I recently learned, as you age, your feet can continue to evolve and change.

I had the opportunity to have a 3D scan conducted of my feet, and it was eye opening. I discovered that my left foot was a full size larger than the right. One foot had a high arch and instep and the other was as flat as Fred Flinstone’s.

Another blow to my self esteem, my size 11 foot is a 4E width.

WILLLLLMMMAaaaaa!

My doctor even told me to wear shoes when I’m at home. I’m used to kicking off my shoes when I walk

in the house, but studies have made it clear that older adults walking barefoot or only in socks at home have a significantly higher likelihood of falling.

I have the right shoes now, and I know there’s really a lot to learn about your feet.

Our Transportation Program: Don’t Keep It A Secret

The BA Senior Center provides an environment for older adults to stay physically active and socially engaged.

For seniors, maintaining their independence is crucial for healthy and active aging. The Center also helps older adults avoid the loneliest number – One.

Social isolation is a big problem for seniors who don’t drive. Having access to affordable transportation keeps older adults connected with family, friends and their community and has many other life-prolonging benefits.

More than 40% of seniors regularly experience loneliness, according to a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) study. The loneliness epidemic in older adults is serious, and the statistics are compelling:

  • Nearly 30% of adults over the age of 65 live alone.
  • 45% of older adults are divorced, separated or widowed.
  • 42% of older adults have some form of disability.
  • Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.
  • Lacking social engagement is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • 4 Isolated individuals have a 64% better chance of developing clinical dementia.

Don’t Keep it a Secret

The BA Senior Center has a transportation program to help older adults get to and from the Center daily. If needed, our bus has a lift to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Every morning, we pick up older adults in our defined service area and take them to the Center. While at the Center, members can participate in more than 50 activities a week (bingo, pool, crafts, dominoes, bunco, guitar, quilting, Zumba, tai chi, yoga and others). Participants can have a hot lunch, visit with friends, participate in health screenings and attend our monthly health and wellness lectures provided by Hillcrest South.

In the afternoon, our members are safely transported back to their homes after a full day of enjoyment.

Older adults without transportation need assistance with other personal errands that are essential for healthy and active aging, so this summer we are adding scheduled trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.

If you know of a relative, loved one, neighbor, friend or co-worker who could benefit from attending the BA Center and/or riding our bus, please ask them to contact us. We have the capacity to impact the lives of dozens of older adults every day who do not have transportation but want to be active members at the Center.

Please help us help as many older adults as possible to break free of the bonds of loneliness and isolation. Give us a call today at 918-259-8377.