Moving into my sixth decade presents challenges that, as a planner, I want to anticipate. However, this aging business is tricky when it comes to Medicare. It seems almost impossible that I should have to think about things like Medicare, but it is a reality. Having been an audiology health care provider for over 35 years I knew the importance of having good information regarding health care insurance, but was at a loss as to where to get started. I just knew I didn’t want to put it off until the last minute.

I have the good fortune to be a member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and plan to take full advantage of their programs as retirement unfolds. In their recent fall listings of scheduled programs I was intrigued to see a free event in August to meet the local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) representative. I had heard of AAA in the Austin area while trying to provide my husband with resources to access services for his parents. I knew AAA was a multifaceted no charge service and was excited to see what services might be available in the Galveston/Houston area. Two of my most pressing questions for myself were regarding Medicare and Social Security. I really didn’t even know enough to ask intelligent questions, but thought AAA might be a good starting point since, like it or not, I needed information to be better prepared for this new “coming of age.”

As I arrived in the OLLI offices, a young woman stood and introduced herself as Mallory Freitag, the lead benefits counseling coordinator with the Area Agency on Aging. She was very pleasant, professional and approachable. As we sat down to talk, I fumbled for how to even get started. She put me right at ease by asking if I had questions about a particular program. I said I was confused about Social Security. She indicated that while AAA does not deal directly with Social Security, there were several good booklets and online resources available.

The lightbulb dawned that Medicare was separate from Social Security, which I should know, but when it comes to your own services sometimes your common sense goes right out the window. Mallory explained all about Medicare: age requirements, enrollment periods, the different parts of coverage and the fees associated with the program. She completely demystified the program for me in less than 10 minutes. What a relief!

She indicated that AAA was planning on coming to OLLI on Sept. 25, and would be doing a Medicare Open Enrollment Workshop to explain Medicare basics, assistance programs that might be available, details about open enrollment, and offer free individual consultations. I cannot tell you how much better and more empowered I felt after speaking with Mallory.

I know that I now have an excellent unbiased resource in AAA at my disposal for all things aging related. I will use their services willingly and encourage others to do the same in this new phase of life. If you want more information, call 409-763-5604.

Hilary Reeh lives on Tiki Island.

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