Does this mean I’m officially retired?

By Bruce Stambaugh

Last year it was Medicare. This time it’s Social Security.

When I turned 65, I had to sign up for Medicare as my primary medical insurance. It’s the way the program has successfully worked since its inception. You hit the magic number and you’re in.

hoarfrostbybrucestambaughI’ve had no problem using the insurance since I was enrolled. I did, however, have an internal issue with it. I looked in disbelief at the Medicare card on which my name was boldly printed.

Could I really be this old? When my next birthday rolled around, I was over my denial. I had accepted my age and the fact that I am definitely in the autumn of my life.

In truth, I wasn’t expecting to receive anything from Social Security. Having been a public educator as my first career, I had always been told I likely wouldn’t get much from Social Security, even if I had the required number of quarters to qualify, which I did.

I decided to check anyhow. I had worked my way through college, and after my 30 years in education, I dabbled in marketing for local businesses as my second career. All the while I had paid into the government retirement plan.

I called the local Social Security office in Wooster, Ohio and told them my situation. They asked a couple of questions, and said someone would call me back in the afternoon. I didn’t hold my breath.

A mere two hours later the person who handles calculating individual benefits called and gave me my numbers. They weren’t great, but more than I had anticipated.

nocrabbingbybrucestambaughI weighed my options, and decided to go for it. I was told it was best to enroll online. I did, and surprisingly, the process only took 15 minutes.

A couple of Saturday mornings later, the phone rang. The caller ID showed it was the Social Security Administration. Why would they be calling on a Saturday morning? I answered the phone to find out.

The bubbly lady who was calling from Chicago first verified that she was indeed speaking to the right person. She asked me one question, did a quick calculation, and came back with the exact same information that the nice man from Wooster did.

Then she asked to speak to my wife. I put Neva on the phone, and she answered several questions for the upbeat woman. I motioned to Neva that I wanted to talk with the Social Security representative again.

When they had finished, Neva handed me the phone, and I told the lady I was surprised that she was calling on a Saturday morning. She quickly explained that so many of us Baby Boomers were signing up for Social Security that the office was swamped.

“The overtime pay is nice, too, just in time for the holidays,” she said with an honest, hearty laugh. I chuckled, too.

I thanked her for her efficiency and kindness, and wished her blessings for the holidays. She returned the same for my family and me.

When I hung up, my wife related that the kind woman noticed that Neva would be eligible for Medicare this year, which is why she wanted to speak to her. So she signed Neva up for that.

Imagine that. A government worker, who some would call a bureaucrat, went above and beyond the call of duty by being proactive on a Saturday morning. Neva and I were both pleased and impressed.

I received my first Social Security deposit right on time. I still have one question though. Does that mean I am really retired?

autumnofmylifebybrucestambaugh
As I enter the autumn of my life, I hope all the views are this colorful.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Mixed emotions about joining the Medicare crowd

Sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

There is a difference between thinking young and thinking that you are young.

Despite what I see in the mirror every morning and my occasional childish behavior, I believe that I still think young. I readily acknowledge that I am no longer young. The baldhead, gray whiskers and skin creases are obvious hints.

My body reminds me I’m no longer a spring chicken as well. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I could count the ways. I am pretty sure, however, no one wants to hear about my aches and pains. Mine are insignificant compared to those of others.

Sun rays by Bruce StambaughNevertheless, with my 65th birthday on the horizon, I am now a certified, card-carrying member of Medicare. When the card came in the mail recently, I didn’t know whether to smile or cry. It was sobering to see my name boldly printed on that red, white and blue card. Reality, as difficult as it was to accept, hit hard.

Facts are facts. The truth is that I am entering the last quarter of my life, assuming the best. I have to be realistic about who I am and what possibly lies ahead. I know I could get hit crossing the road retrieving the mail. However, with longevity in my family, I expect to live another 20 to 30 years.

The key of course is how I live them, not how long I live them. Isn’t that the case for each and every one of us?

I try to take good care of myself in every aspect of my life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. When the weather permits, I try to walk at least 30 minutes everyday. Walking not only exercises my body, but stirs my mind as well.

White-crowned sparrow by Bruce StambaughThe brisk stroll invigorates my muscles and gets my blood flowing. The soft, cheery call of the White-crowned Sparrows singing from the creek-side brush uplifts my mood.

Greeting the scholars gathering for another day of lessons at the one-room Amish school I pass brings back many fond memories of my own days in the classroom, both as a student and an educator. The hearty wave of my friend, Martha, reminds me how blessed I am and have been. Like a brilliant double rainbow, friends enrich my spirit.

Inspirations like those keep me going. I think back and recall the good times, allowing them to override any and all negative experiences, and there have been plenty. It is easy to come to a simple conclusion. I am grateful.

The secret to living a full, happy life is no secret at all. Bringing joy to others is really what it’s all about. In life’s daily clamor, it’s easy to lose sight of that basic fact.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren, 3.
If I have learned anything in my first 64 years, it is this: Blessing others by what I do, say and write blesses me. I know I have fallen short too many times. The key is to keep on trying. A simple kindness like holding the door for someone will suffice.

I didn’t expect signing up for Medicare to be so traumatic or reflective. I sighed to myself, accepted the card and tucked it away in the most appropriate place in my wallet, right behind the pictures of my grandchildren.

That way whenever I need to pull out the card that says I’m old, the shining eyes and effusive smiles of my grandchildren will keep me young.

Grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh
Davis, 6, and Evan, 8.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

V is for volunteer and Voltz

Jane Voltz by Bruce Stambaugh
Jane Voltz has both worked and volunteered for several years at Pomerene Memorial Hospital in Millersburg, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Jane Voltz, of Killbuck, Ohio epitomizes the role of a volunteer. She loves the work, but doesn’t want any of the notoriety. Her efforts are reward enough.

Voltz, 70, has been a volunteer with the Joel Pomerene Memorial Hospital auxiliary in Millersburg, Ohio off and on for 30 years. Next year, she will be its president.

That’s why she is looking for yet one more volunteer to replace another volunteer position she has held. Voltz has served as the local Medicare advocate. Because she is once again about recent changes to Medicare, and how the annual open enrollment time, which expires Dec. 31, works.

The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program at the Ohio Department of Insurance is sponsoring the workshop. It is billed as a way to stay informed, stay healthy and to save money for those enrolled in Medicare.

“This would be a good opportunity for someone to explore what is involved in the position,” Voltz said. “Of course, everyone with questions about Medicare can attend.”

For Voltz, Pomerene Hospital has been a second home. Aside from her extensive volunteering roles, she has worked at the hospital for 35 years.

“I started in 1956 as a nurse’s aide,” Voltz said. She retired 25 years later, and then returned “as a back up to the back lab currier,” as she put it.

“I like spur-of-the-moment things like that,” she said. Voltz cited a Sunday morning call she received to make a run to another hospital for the lab as an example of how her immediate assistance is needed.

Voltz said she considers the hospital staff and volunteers her second family.

“We are very fortunate to have this hospital,” she said.

Voltz said in the process of helping visitors and patients at the hospital, she gets to see people she hasn’t seen in awhile. Voltz said she is only one of at least 100 volunteers who make up the auxiliary.

Voltz said the main roles of volunteers include transporting patients within the hospital, especially department to department, and delivering flowers to patients’ rooms.

She said the auxiliary depends solely on fundraising in order to provide funds for items that are needed, but don’t make it into the hospital’s budget. Profits from the gift shop, uniform sales, poinsettia sales, book sales and bake sales all contribute money to pay for auxiliary donations.

“We work closely with the Pomerene Hospital Foundation,” Voltz said. “The auxiliary recently bought a $6,000 ice machine for the dining area.”

Voltz said she has been the Medicare advocate for the hospital since 1992.

“I want to spend time with my grandchildren,” she said. “There has to be somebody out there who is willing to do this needed service.”

Voltz has a son and a daughter and four grandchildren. She also has five stepchildren, 13 step-grandchildren and 13 step-great-grandchildren. Her first husband, Harold Garver, died in 1970, and her second husband, Dwight, died in 2004. Voltz had stepped away from her volunteer work for a while to care for Dwight, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Voltz was born and raised in Killbuck, and is a graduate of Killbuck High School. In addition to helping with her grandchildren, Voltz said she likes to travel.

“Anyone who says they don’t know what they would do if they retired needs to know there are many ways to help as a volunteer,” Voltz said.

“We have to enjoy each day because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

Voltz used her mother as her inspiration for volunteering. She said her mother would donate items to the Volunteers of America truck whenever it came around.

“Everyone should volunteer for something,” Voltz said. “Your payment is the satisfaction of helping someone.”

During her long career as a volunteer, Voltz certainly has received a great deal of satisfaction from her efforts. Her hope now is that someone will pick up her role as Medicare advocate before the end of the year.

Anyone interested in the Medicare advocate position should contact Voltz by calling the hospital at 330-674-1015.