Robert’s review: I know I just read a great story about the fun of getting old, and I’m supposed to do a review about it, but I can’t seem to recall the details of it just right now.
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Starting in our early fifties, they arrived without our consent, red and white envelopes sporting those alphabetically advantageous initials, proclaiming the start of our long decline into decrepitude. We tossed them every time they darkened our mail box. “A little too soon,” we thought as we flippantly pitched their presumptuous messages of aging bodies and failing minds into the recycling bin. Had we actually read them, we might have thought differently. Fifty-something was not a period of life when I wanted to think about retirement or aging. I was still gainfully employed, physically active and fully involved with my community.
We’ve now started opening those envelopes from AARP. Somehow, they still managed to find us after we moved or possibly because we did move. Aha! These people must be retiring, let’s start bugging them again, force them into intelligent investment, healthcare and social decisions for their own good. I hate them. I can no longer deny that we have moved into the back half of life, but I don’t want to take all my personal advice from people who sell insurance. The trials of aging may be upon us, but we are still in good fighting mode.
I am a staunch defender of my good health. I dutifully visit the doctors I trust to find early signs of horrible things. Though we currently have Marketplace health insurance, this year is the one in which my husband and I both go on Medicare. So, I’m wondering now if any of those red and white envelopes I so casually tossed aside might have contained helpful information to prepare me for the rigors of signing up. We received notifications in the mail announcing the preeminent arrival of our sign-up period. From three months before your birthday month, throughout your birthday month and three months after. Better do it then or you’re fucked. It didn’t actually say that, but that was the general ominous tone of this notice.
I dutifully complied well ahead of my birthday so as to not cause an expensive gap in my coverage. I went to the Social Security website, the magic portal through which I could apply and make my choices, and that’s when my carefully planned route took me off a cliff. I attempted to create an account with Social Security. They rudely told me I already had one, so I had better sign onto that one. I stared at the computer for a while trying to figure out what occasion could have facilitated the need for an online account with Social Security. Was it when we moved? Where might I have stashed the precious sign-on information? It certainly wasn’t with that jumble of passwords I keep for ordering on Amazon or getting Meetup info.
I asked for some assistance. Surely, they should know that citizens approaching their Medicare years are not going to manage to keep track of one little, sparsely used log-in after more than a year of online shopping, Zooming and patient portal gazing. I was granted the knowledge of my user name. Yeah, that sounded like something I’d pick. Now how about that password? It would be divulged only if I could answer these three questions, which apparently, I had set up years ago when I opened this bridge to future income. At that time, I’m sure I felt none of the answers to these questions was ambiguous. Three questions. Three simple answers later I was proved wrong. Wait, what? First pet? First birth-family pet or first married-with-family pet? Is that the answer I got wrong? With my frustration mounting, I tried again. Still no dice. I was locked out of applying for Medicare by incorrect answers to my own personal questions. The troll had thrown me off the bridge. Failure never felt so full. They might as well have asked me “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” At least I could have asked my husband or called my son to get the answer. Or watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the hundredth time.
The Social Security office offered redemption. They would mail me a new temporary password. Dear God, may it be that they have my current address on file or else I am right and truly screwed. Even if I find the log-in information, they caution that it will no longer work. I can thank myself only for starting the process quite early. I’m looking up the address for the local Social Security office just in case.
With that minor detail on hold, my next process was to choose which type of coverage I would like to be stuck with for an unchangeably long time. Insurance is a big business and absolutely none of it is designed for my benefit. I could build a tower to my final resting place with the offers of advice, seminars and free steak dinners we’ve received in the mail from insurance hawkers. They’d be happy to help me plan my future. Full disclosure: I’ve worked for two insurance companies, so there’s a bit of bias going on here, and I definitely would not allow any of them to plan my future or even a small backyard barbeque.
How does one sort through all this information? How can an intelligent choice be made amid the barrage of facts and figures from people vying for our post-retirement income? We sifted through all the types of coverage and plans. We weighed our options between co-pays and no-pays, local docs only or internationally covered, large supplemental premiums or even larger, growing-exponentially-as-you-age supplemental premiums. We looked at each and every detail of each and every avenue of geezer healthcare coverage. Then threw up our hands and made a semi-logical choice for both of us without succumbing to the use of darts. We can’t predict the future. We’re not sure if it is the right choice, but at least we did the homework and are prepared for whatever tests come our way.
Then we surrendered to the enemy. We decided to join AARP. Sure, they sell insurance. We don’t have to buy it or even pay attention to solicitations. We’ve added our weight to their advocacy efforts on behalf of us old folks, fighting ageism and lobbying to keep benefits from being stolen by nefarious politicians with evil agendas. We’ll visit the tourist spots highlighted in their magazine and make use of those travel discounts. (Hmmm…maybe that’s AAA). They have free online crossword puzzles too! It’s not a permanent commitment. But, after more than a decade of rejecting their advances, I do have that feeling of comfortably settling in for what hopefully will be a long haul.
We love our chosen retirement city. The hiking opportunities alone provide ample reasons to keep physically active. Now that the pandemic precautions are lifting (and we are fully vaxxed!) we look forward to engaging with the local community as well as roaming about the state and visiting all the little surrounding mountain hamlets. Hopefully the postal bombardment of insurance solicitations will slow down once we get hooked up with our chosen coverage. Our aging bodies and failing minds are tired of having to deal with all that recycling. We’ve got better things to do!
And spectacular places to go,
Guest Editor Robert led the charge through Medicare and other advanced-age insurance decisions. We are aging gracefully together with only the occasional complaint about aching joints and misplaced important information.