About Bev Bachel

I'm a freelance writer and the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It.

Why is Signing Up for Medicare So Complicated?

I turn 65 in August, which means I’m enrolling in Medicare for the first time.

OMG, I had no idea how confusing it would be.

Even with several AARP “how to sign up for Medicare” webinars…even with a knowledgeable broker I’ve worked with for years…even with a healthcare-savvy, detail-oriented sister whose husband has been on Medicare for nearly two decades…even with the fact that I’ve written brochures about health insurance, including Medicare.

Does it really need to be so complicated?

First, there’s the timing of my “initial enrollment period,” which I wouldn’t have even known about if my broker hadn’t reached out to me.

Then there’s Original Medicare, which I think is also called traditional Medicare. Offered through the federal government and accepted by most doctors, it’s made up of Part A to cover hospital costs, and Part B to cover doctor visits and outpatient services.

There’s also Medicare Advantage, sometimes called Part C, which is an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. If I understand correctly, it limits out-of-pocket expenses, while Original Medicare does not.

Which coverage is right for me depends on my health, my doctors, the insurance my doctors accept, where I live, where I travel and my financial situation. All things that are up in the air.

Oh, and don’t forget Part D for the drugs I’m likely to need in the years. And what about a Medigap policy which helps pay for out-of-pocket costs? Do I need one of them? If so, how much does it cost?

And of course there are enrollment deadlines. Miss them, and I’ll have to pay more.

I could go on and on. I imagine many of you reading this could as well. I also imagine some of you have good advice to offer. If so, please share.

When it Comes to Your Age, Do You Share?

I’m a few months shy of 65, and yes, I find that nearly impossible to believe—and sometimes difficult to share.

Divulging one’s age is definitely a personal decision. I respect that, and so do most women I know.

My friend Maery, who coincidentally turns 65 today, not only willingly shares her age, she dares people to make a joke or a derogatory comment. 

Others I know are more sensitive about sharing. One reason is because they fear age-related discrimination. That’s the situation of another friend who, unlike me, spent most of her 30s and 40s as a stay-at-home mom focused on her family.

Now, eager to complete her PhD and advance in her career, she recently declined being nominated for the Minnesota 50 Over 50, an AARP Minnesota awards program that honors Minnesotans over the age of 50 who are doing amazing things in one of five categories: arts, business, community, nonprofit and disruptor.

Two other women I know declined to be nominated as well because they, too, didn’t want to call attention their age. One felt doing so would diminish her accomplishments, another thought doing so might jeopardize her job hunt.

The male colleague who asked them if he could nominate them described the experience as awkward and uncomfortable. He went on to say that he would never feel uncomfortable asking a man about his age. And he doubts a man would ever decline being nominated because of his age.  

What do you think? Do you own your age or are you sensitive about revealing it? If so, why? Do you see a difference between how men and women view age and their willingness to talk about it? What can we, individually or as a society, do to help ourselves and others openly claim—and share—our age? 

Share your thoughts. 

What’s Your Reason for Getting Up in the Morning?

When I was a young kid, my reason for getting up was to play with my four younger sisters. Then in my tweens and teens, it was to hang out with my friends. In college, it was to get to my classes; in my early 20s, it was to get to work.

Then, in my early 40s, after the untimely deaths of my parents–my dad after a year-long battle with cancer, my mom in an instant after a stroke—it was to distract myself from my grief. Every morning I woke up, got dressed and walked to my neighborhood coffee shop where I followed Julia Cameron’s advice from The Artist’s Way and wrote morning pages. Doing so was definitely my lifeline, one thing I could control and a way of coming to terms with my grief and guilt, as well as my fears.

Eighteen months later, once my grief had ebbed, work once again became my reason for getting up. Somedays I was so driven to get started that I turned on my computer on my way to the bathroom.

But now that I no longer work full-time, I’ve been pondering my reason for getting up. Pre-pandemic it might have been to attend a board meeting, enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend or, pre-hip pain, walk the Stone Arch bridge across the Mississippi—all activities that connected me to others and the world in which we live.

Now, my reasons rarely involve connecting with others or the outside world, especially because COVID means doing it in front of a screen rather than in person. It’s hard to get excited about more screen time. As a result, getting up can sometimes be the most challenging part of my day.

That’s why, while writing my recent Aging with Gusto post, I was excited to discover the concept of ikigai (ee-kee-gahy). According to the authors of the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, ikigai is a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.” When combined, the term means “that which gives your life purpose, meaning or worth.”

Minnesotan Dan Buettner talks a lot about purpose in his book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People. So does fellow Minnesotan Richard Leider whose newest book is Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging.

While I’ve been tempted to pooh-pooh the power of purpose, data shows that having one can make a difference, not only to the quality of our lives, but also their length.

So, now that I’m of a certain age (only six years away from the age both my parents were when they died, I’ve become determined to do all I can to extend not only the length of my life but also the quality of it.  

That’s meant turning inward by once again writing morning pages. At first, they were filled with recriminations, accusations, reprimands and wouldas, couldas and shouldas, all of which undermined my ability to identify—and perhaps more importantly—fulfill my purpose.

But slowly, over the past 18 months, my pages have begun to fill with more positive thoughts (the sun shining on the bright white snow is beautiful) and simple delights (this cup of coffee tastes great). And while COVID is still interfering with many of my hopes and dreams, I am—morning by morning and page by page—finding new reasons to get up each day.

Nudging the Universe

Twenty years ago, two friends and I started the year by taking an afternoon-long New Year’s Day “nudge the universe” class. As part of the class, we and the dozen or so other participants each had to make up a name for ourselves that represented a goal we hoped to achieve. With the goal of writing a book and becoming more creative, I chose “Author Artist.”

Amscan 457001 Party Name Tags, 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, Red

Then, after introducing ourselves using our new names, we were tasked with writing a song that celebrated what we hoped to accomplish, as if we’d already accomplished it. With the hope of nudging into existence my goal of writing a book, here’s the song I wrote (and then, much to my dismay, had to sing to my fellow nudgers):

Author Artist had a book
E-I-E-I-O
With a book book here
And a book there
Here a book
There a book
Everywhere a book book
Author Artist had a book
E-I-E-I-O

While I thought the exercise was silly at the time, it has turned out to be quite powerful: within a year I had a contract for What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It, a book for teens that has since sold more than 50,000 copies and been translated into 10 languages.

I don’t share this to brag but to emphasize how important and powerful getting clear on our hopes and dreams can be. Even two decades later, my name and my song continue to resonate with me and, perhaps more importantly, motivate me to take action. But as we head into 2022, I’m considering a new name, a new tune and what new things I’d like to nudge into existence in the years ahead, including:

  • Another book
  • A stronger relationship with my significant other
  • A New York City apartment for six months
  • Proficiency in Spanish
  • Retirement

How about you? What nudges would you like to give the universe in 2022? And if you had to choose a goal-related name for yourself, what name would you choose?

Five Things I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

The isolation brought on by the pandemic has taken its toll on many of us, me included. As a result, rather than seeing the glass half full as I once did, I became a list maker of tiny gripes: endless emails, bad drivers, unreturned phone calls and year-late healthcare bills topped my list.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long to realize that focusing on the negative wasn’t helpful. So I recruited a “bliss buddy” with whom I began sharing what I was grateful for: the beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers and the compassion of friends made the list often.

So did my sister Karen who, for the past 152 days, has sent me a text each morning to remind me that I am both loved and lovable. Her kind words have become the background music of my days, often uplifting my spirits before I even realize they need it.

Here are four other things I am especially grateful for this Thanksgiving:

  • My aunt Caroline. In February 2020, I wrote my first Word Sisters blog post. It was about my aunt and uncle, both in their 90s. He had recently been hospitalized, she had recently suffered a stroke. While he has since died, she continues to thrive, despite having lost the ability to speak clearly or use the right side of her body. The last of my mother’s siblings, she’s an amazing role model whose light continues to shine bright and who shows me that I can age with gusto despite the challenges I may face.
  • My health and healthcare providers. I’ve taken my physical and mental health for granted my entire life. Then, one day in August 2020, despite routinely walking 10,000 steps a day, I could barely get myself around the block. After an MRI, I was told I needed to have my hip replaced. I opted for physical therapy instead and am now able to walk to my heart’s content once again. I also opted to see a mental health therapist. Her support keeps me grounded in the here and now yet gives me hope that I can—and will—change.
  • My book group. I’ve been a member of my book group going on three decades. During that time, one member was murdered by her husband, another died of cancer. Most of us have lost our parents, all of us are coming to terms with our own aging. Getting together every other month means meaningful conversations with women I trust who know both my good and bad qualities and who offer their unconditional love and support.
  • The ability to say no. I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life, afraid of disappointing others. That sometimes meant staying on committees that drained me, meeting friends for cocktails when I didn’t want to be drinking and driving across town in rush-hour traffic when I wanted to be curled up on the couch. The pandemic lessened the things I was invited to do and made it easier to say no to things that weren’t in line with my priorities.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Please share.