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Older Americans Month 2017: Age Out Loud

In April 1963, after meeting with members of the National Council of Senior Citizens, President John F. Kennedy designated May as “Senior Citizens Month” – what would eventually become “Older Americans Month.” The month is used as a time to acknowledge the important role seniors play in the United States and highlight our impact on our nation’s history.

Since the era of Kennedy, every U.S. president has declared May as Older Americans Month. This year, President Donald Trump did the same and called upon all Americans “to honor our elders, acknowledge their contributions, care for those in need, and reaffirm our country’s commitment to older Americans this month and throughout the year.” Leading the celebration of Older Americans Month is the Administration for Community Living (ACL), who designed this year’s theme of Age Out Loud to “give aging a new voice – one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.”

What better way to celebrate this year’s theme than to get involved and raise important issues surrounding seniors’ access to quality health care services like Medicare! As seniors, we are the most important voice in this fight, so it’s imperative we use our time and resources to speak out.

If you’re a new reader, you might not know that your access to Medicare is currently under threat by the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This is a big problem for beneficiaries like you and me, as IPAB could soon be determining what will be covered under Medicare – from treatments, to procedures, to medications. In honor of Older Americans Month and this year’s aptly-designed theme, I encourage all seniors to join together to stand up for Medicare. Our voices are imperative to winning this fight, so don’t be afraid to Age Out Loud!

To learn more about IPAB and Medicare, view our recent blog post here.



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A Memorial Day Reflection

veterans day For many people in America, Memorial Day signifies the beginning of summer. While this celebrated day can coincide with the opening of one’s neighborhood pool or the first family picnic of the season, it is important to remember Memorial Day is something far more important than that.

More than 150 years ago, after the Civil War, Major General John Logan proclaimed that the 30th of May would be set aside to commemorate those who had died in battle. Now celebrated on the last Monday of May each year, Memorial Day is a day of quiet remembrance, where we show our gratefulness for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. This Memorial Day, here at Seniors Speak Out, we want to take time to commemorate those who have died while serving in the U.S. military. We greatly appreciate their sacrifices while protecting the essential American freedoms of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

For those families who have lost someone special in defense of our great nation, Memorial Day is especially close to our hearts. We hope that you use this day to commemorate America’s fallen heroes and enjoy the time with loved ones: friends, children, grandchildren, spouses or even neighbors.

We would love to hear your memories of those you are remembering today, so feel free to comment on our Facebook page here. As always, we thank you for being a part of our community, and we encourage you take a few moments to remember those who have lost their lives while you enjoy Memorial Day with those you care about the most.



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Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare: Support Repeal of IPAB

kane-reinholdtsen-145944Attention seniors! If you are like me and depend on Medicare for your health care services, now is an important time to be paying attention to what is happening in Washington, DC. It is expected that the Independent Payment Advisory Board, known as IPAB, could soon become a reality.

If you are a longtime reader, then you may already know about IPAB from our previous post. If not, here are the basics:

IPAB was established by the Affordable Care Act. If Medicare spending exceeds a certain level, then a board of 15 unelected officials are given a broad-range of authority to make decisions about mandatory cuts to Medicare spending.

This is a big problem for Medicare beneficiaries like you and me. These bureaucrats are unelected and in no way accountable to voters. They are required to make spending cuts, but not to maintain quality of care. This means IPAB could soon be determining what will be covered under Medicare – from treatments, to procedures, to medications.

And don’t be fooled by the fact that the president hasn’t appointed members to the board yet. Unfortunately, spending cuts are still mandated by law, so all of IPAB’s power is shifted to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Proposed changes by IPAB or the HHS secretary can even bypass congressional approval. In this case, the future of health care for millions of seniors could be determined by just one individual.

Across the country, more than 670 organizations made up of patients, doctors, hospitals, employers and veterans are advocating for the repeal of IPAB. Additionally, there is bipartisan support from lawmakers to ensure IPAB never becomes a reality. However, time is running out. As seniors, we must join in and encourage Congress to repeal IPAB today. Our health depends on it.



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National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

SSO Colorectal Cancer ImageMarch is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Here at Seniors Speak Out it’s important to be aware of diseases like colorectal cancer that affect older Americans. Because colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths – and a cancer that can be screened for often – it is so important that we visit the doctor regularly for screenings.

The first step to preventing colorectal cancer is to learn what it is and how it impacts your body. Colon cancer is a malignant growth that begins in the colon or large intestine. It includes both cancers of the colon and those that form in the rectum. Most colon cancers begin with the formation of benign polyps, or non-cancerous growths in the large intestine. Often, these growths produce absolutely no symptoms, which is why it is important to visit your doctor annually for testing.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends adults begin regular screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, though those with a family history of this cancer should begin sooner.

Colonoscopies used to be a dreaded rite of passage for seniors. But there is good news! There are now various options to test for the disease.

Stool tests can be conducted annually, while a colonoscopy is recommended by USPSTF to be done every 10 years in the absence of polyps. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare covers colorectal cancer screening tests to help find pre-cancerous polyps. However, if a polyp or other tissue is found during the colonoscopy, you may have to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor’s services and a copayment in a hospital outpatient setting.

Of course, it is important to discuss your testing options with a physician, who can provide you with more detailed information about each screening test, how often they should occur and what is best for you. Be sure to ask questions about how often Medicare covers each screening test so you know your potential out-of-pocket costs up front.

Again, because the symptoms of colon cancer are often unnoticed, us seniors must take charge of our own health and visit the doctor annually for a regular screening. Contact your doctor today to schedule a test for colorectal cancer in honor of National Colorectal Awareness Month.



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Get Up and Get Active This Spring!

Spring is on the way! All of us at Seniors Speak Out are excited to finally store our coats away, grab our sneakers and get out to enjoy the warm weather.

For seniors, a great way to take advantage of the new season is to embrace physical activity outside. After all, exercise can lead to healthier aging and it can allow us to live more independent lifestyles. Whether you’re a sports fan or an avid gardener, hopefully our tips on how to stay active this spring will lead seniors across the country to get up off the couch and enjoy the great outdoors.

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For the sports fan: Some local community centers offer croquet and bocce ball leagues for seniors, which is a relaxing way to combine exercise and socialization. Also be sure to check out the National Senior Games Association for more information on senior sports leagues offered near you.

 

 

 

benjamin-combs-27617For those with a green thumb: Consider starting a gardening club at your local community center. This is a wonderful way to get outside while also giving back to the environment.

 

 

 

 

mpho-mojapelo-173231For the animal lover: If you don’t have your own dog to play fetch with, volunteering at a pet shelter is an easy way to get active. At the shelter, you can offer to take a dog for a walk so you can both enjoy the sunshine.

 

 

 

ashley-baxter-27994For the photography enthusiast: Grab your camera and simply go for a walk. You will be surprised by the amount of beautiful flowers waiting to be photographed.

 

 

 


shutterstock_128091341For the social butterfly:
It’s no surprise that exercise is more fun when others are involved. Before you venture out on a walk around town, gather up a group of friends or family members to join in.

 

 

 

hannah-morgan-39891For the shopaholic: If there is an outdoor shopping mall in your neighborhood, window shopping is a great way to stay physically active while also looking for a bargain.

 

 

 
How do you plan to take advantage of the warmer months upon us? Tell us in the comments section below!



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Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

As you’ve most likely experienced firsthand, aging can contribute to the onset of many different health conditions. Here at Seniors Speak Out, we know it is difficult to decipher what is considered a normal sign of aging and what could be something more serious. Learning about lesser-known conditions can mean an important stold couple smilingep toward preventative care.

What better reason to discuss Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month? It is February, after all! This is a great opportunity to share information about vision changes many seniors experience and remember the importance of regular visits to the eye doctor.

According to the National Eye Institute, vision changes are normal as we age. Here are a few examples of how we can expect our eyes to change as we grow older:

  1. Eyes may take longer to adjust and focus
  2. Adjusting to light and dark transitions may be more challenging
  3. Eyes may have a difficult time distinguishing an image from its background (this is called contrast sensitivity)

Though these examples of changes are good to keep in mind, the best way to prolong your sharp vision is to regularly see your eye doctor for an exam. In some cases, your doctor can help you determine if you have developed Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.

The early stages of AMD start without symptoms, which is why it is so important to regularly get an eye exam. Remember – early detection can slow the rate of vision loss and allow you to make the most of what vision is remaining.

To learn more about eye care, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology to view their extensive set of resources for seniors.



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Tell Congress to Protect Our Medicare Today!

 

Attention seniors! Last week, an amendment was introduced that would dramatically alter our Medicare benefits. Should this amendment pass, costs for our prescriptions might rise and we could even be denied access to certain medicines prescribed by our doctors.

We know that 9 in 10 seniors nationwide are satisfied with their Part D coverage and that millions of seniors like us rely on Medicare for quality, affordable health care, so we must act NOW! Congress will consider this amendment this week. We need to speak out today to make sure our members of Congress know we won’t stand for this harmful proposal—our health is too important.

Make your voice heard and join me in telling the federal government to stop meddling in my Medicare! Sign the letter here: http://www.seniorsspeakout.org/speak-out/protect-seniors-access-to-medicare/
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Goodbye 2016 – Hello 2017

It’s been a great year at Seniors Speak Out. We kicked off 2016 by speaking out to tell members of Congress why Medicare Part B is so important to us. By working together to write letters to Congress, we protected our essential access to health care.

We celebrated National Immunization Awareness Month, National Sarcoma Awareness Month, and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and even wished a Happy Birthday to 1951! As always, we also provided many tips for living a healthy and active senior lifestyle.

In the last few weeks we also shared resources to help with open enrollment and to assess your coverage.

As we say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017, we want to hear from you! Tell us what you would like to see on the Seniors Speak Out blog in 2017 in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading!



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Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

The holidays are a wonderful time of year to visit with family and celebrate our many blessings, but with traveling, parties, and cold weather, it can also be a time when many let their healthy lifestyles fall by the wayside. This holiday season, commit to your healthy lifestyle by remembering the following tips:

Stay Healthysnow
Make sure to make healthy choices, such as eating smaller meals throughout the day to prepare for an evening of fun or eating a meal before an event so you are full and not tempted by unhealthy snacks.

Stay Active
With holiday travels or holiday guests, taking time to exercise can become your last priority—but, it is more important now than ever. Consider taking a family walk around the neighborhood or a walking tour of your local holiday lights. If it’s too cold, consider walking a few extra laps at the mall when shopping for those last minute gifts! A little bit of exercise can go a long way.

Stay Hydrated
Drinking water is always important. Eight glasses a day is recommended so think about taking a water bottle with you while you shop for gifts or visit friends.

Stay Rested
The holidays can be a stressful time with guests, shopping, events, and much more. Make sure to rest and relax when you get a chance. Don’t wear yourself out before you get a chance to enjoy time with your family. Remember you can always ask for help!

Stay Well
Unfortunately, the holiday season coincides with cold and flu season. Keep yourself well by getting the necessary vaccines and visiting your doctor at the first sign of illness. During the holidays, it’s easy to ignore symptoms and put off going to the doctor, but remember, early detection is key!

Stay Involved
Spending time with family and friends is the most important part of the holiday season. By staying healthy, active, hydrated, rested, and well this holiday season, you will be able to stay involved in all of the festivities.

Seniors Speak Out wishes you and yours a happy holiday filled with health and happiness!

 

 



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One Day Left of Open Enrollment

One day left! As you probably know, Medicare open enrollment ends December 7 so today and tomorrow are your last chances to change your plan for the upcoming year. Seniors Speak Out has some great resources to help you with the open enrollment process, such as the Fast Facts page, or 5 Tips for Open Enrollment, and of course the More Medicare Resources page.

A few more resources were added to the blog throughout open enrollment this year:

  • If you are changing your plan at the last minute this year or helping someone with their coverage, visit the 2017 Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment for questions to consider when assessing plans, such as preferred pharmacies, medication needs, co-payments and co-insurance fees.
  • A special guest post from longtime senior advocate, Bob Blancato, has open enrollment resources from our partner organization Medicare Today, including a helpful image that is being distributed to senior centers across America.

It’s not too late to assess your health care needs and change your plan for next year! There is one day left of open enrollment, so please look over the resources and posts mentioned above to make sure your health care coverage is meeting your needs!