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senior living

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

Joan Koczor

Some of us are reaching that stage of our life when we are considering downsizing. Some are looking forward to removing the clutter and enjoying free time by moving to a smaller place that requires less upkeep.

If you are experiencing medical issues or unable to care for yourself, downsizing should be considered. At this time, it may become necessary for family, friends or your physician to discuss your options. Family members should use caution to ensure the senior feels part of the process.

Once the decision to downsize is made they will need to discuss what living arrangement is best for them.

Typically, renting or buying a smaller home or condominium, living with a family member or friend, assisted living, retirement community or nursing home facility are a few options you may have. Are there road trips you always wanted to take? You might consider an RV.

Taking into consideration where you will be moving and space available, a list of things you want to take with you and what can be donated or discarded can be helpful in the de-cluttering process.

Ask yourself: Is it necessary? Do I really want it? When is the last time I used it? Any financial value? Sentimental value? Are there a few things to pass along to family members?

No family members nearby? Feeling overwhelmed? There are several senior placement agencies in Arizona that can work with you. A representative will assess your situation taking into consideration your medical condition and needs, location and financial status.

If you are considering a senior placement agency do some research. Are they reputable? Is there a language barrier? Is the agency familiar with Medicare/Medicaid? Consider an agency that has the best experience dealing with all types of insurance. Does the agency charge a fee?

Downsizing is a life changing experience but not as scary as it sounds. It can also present new opportunities. A smaller living space means less maintenance and can free up time to pursue your hobbies, allow time to travel without the worry of what has to be done at home and more time for socialization. Check off a few items on your bucket list.

As with anything, exercise caution. Get as much information as you can before you make any decision. More importantly, do what is right for you.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

Joan Koczor

Falls are a real and growing risk to older adults’ health and independence and, in some cases, to their very lives. Falls can cause serious injury that can threaten independence and even result in death. A common misconception is falling is a natural part of aging and there is nothing you can do to prevent falling. Despite being labeled “accidents,” many falls are preventable and don’t have to be a part of aging.

The Healthy Aging Communications Network states, “Unintentional falls were the leading cause of injury-related mortality among Arizona residents 65 years and older. Accounting for an average of two deaths every day.”

  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
  • In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75 percent of these costs.
  • The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.

A few safeguards you can implement outside the home:

  • Use bright outdoor lighting.
  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairs.
  • Check handrails periodically so see if they are loose or broken.

Inside your home:

  • Use night lights.
  • In the bathroom, install grab bars by the toilet and shower.
  • Use non-skid mats in the tub or shower. Have a light by your bed within easy reach.
  • Have a firm chair that has side arms, which can be used as support while you dress.Avoid walking on wet floors.
  • Remove throw rugs and other things on the floor that can cause you to trip and fall.

Additional proactive measure you can take to prevent falls include:

  • Review your medication with your doctor. Some medicines can make you dizzy or cause other side effects that can cause you to fall.Improve your balance and coordination with regular physical activity.Get yearly vision checkups as poor vision can increase your chance of falling.

This is a small sampling of what you can do to prevent falls.

ncoa.org/fallprevention, azdhs.gov/phs/healthy.aging

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

Joan Koczor

Robocalls, those prerecorded, unsolicited annoyances that are becoming all-too-frequent in many households, have reached epic proportions. They are the largest source of consumer complaints to the FTC.

In 2018, a record 48 billion robocalls were placed to phones in the United States, according to YouMail, a company that blocks and tracks robocalls. That is 57 percent more robocalls than there were in 2017.

Legal or Not

Political parties and candidates, as well as charities, are legally allowed to autodial you with a prerecorded message to your home landline. The same is true of callers whose messages are purely informational: the pharmacy telling you that your prescription is ready, your child’s school to say there’s a weather delay, your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment.

Autodialed telemarketing calls from legitimate outfits to your home landline are also legally permitted, provided the person on the other end is a human being; for prerecorded messages, your written consent is required.

Payment reminder calls to your landline — for example, when your credit card company robocalls you to alert you that your payment is due — are generally legal without prior consent. Robocalls from debt collection agencies, which are also payment reminders, are legal to landlines and require no previous consent to be called. Moreover, these calls are not covered by the Do Not Call Registry.

Almost all autodialed or prerecorded calls made to your cell phone – charities, political parties to name a few – are illegal unless you have given permission to be contacted this way or a call is for an emergency. If you get these calls to your cell phone and don’t remember giving permission, it’s possible that you checked a terms-of-service box or provided a phone number during a sign-up process. Doing either can constitute consent to be called, per FCC regulations.

What can you do?

Many companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon, have services that alert you an incoming robocall may be from a scammer or spammer.

While the carriers’ systems can notify customers of calls that may be problematic, they are far from perfect. Scammers can still spoof legitimate numbers.

Instead of simply being alerted to incoming robocalls, a call-blocking app can intercept robocalls before they reach you. Though some apps don’t access your contact lists, some of the free apps do. If you’re planning to download a robocall-blocking app, read the app’s privacy policy first.

One option available from some phone companies is to automatically reject anonymous calls. If you turn this feature on, all anonymous calls are instantly rejected, preventing the caller from even leaving a message.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

By Joan Koczor

The meaning of the American Dream has seen many changes since first introduced as early as the 1600s.

The American Dream is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, which states “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Freelance writer James Adams popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book “Epic of America.” In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. based the civil rights movement in the African American quest for the American Dream.

As young adults, many believed they could achieve the American Dream by working hard, saving a little to provide an education for their kids so they could have a better life than they did, and retire with sufficient funds to see them through their retirement or golden years – hopefully, mortgage- and debt-free.

The new reality is people are living longer, more expensive lives with very little money in reserve.

The result is nearly one in five Americans older than 65 is working. Over the past decade, those numbers have risen faster than any other age group. Today, there are 9 million seniors working compared to 4 million in 2000.

Some seniors are returning to the workforce by choice while others are returning out of need. A recent poll showed many older people are more concerned with running out of money than dying.

Theresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist said, “There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement.”

Seniors are traveling the nation looking for seasonal jobs offering hourly wages and few or no benefits.

Amazon’s Camper Force program hires thousands of seniors to box online orders during the Christmas rush. Websites such as Workamper News have been created listing various types of jobs.

This is not the case with all seniors. There are some who have adequate funds to enjoy a carefree lifestyle. That makes some of us wonder where we went wrong. How did they accumulate all that money?

A little grim? Reality can be like that.

Ask yourself – how important are money and possessions. You can’t put a dollar amount on sharing each day with the person you love, and having reasonably good health, a place to call home, food on the table and friends to share the good times and bad.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Is your family history in the Cloud?

Bob Marsh said there is a nationwide problem that could be turned into a golden opportunity for Maricopa.

Bob Marsh

“Everybody my age has a shoebox or 50 of photographs in a closet somewhere in their home,” said Marsh, a graduate of MIT with a degree in computer science. He has decades of experience working for and with Microsoft.

“When they moved here from Iowa or Minnesota, they brought those shoeboxes with them. Those photos contain historical records, faces, clothing, special scenarios and names of people who can be tagged if you digitized the photos.”

Marsh said if those images were then placed into an online cloud and people tell a story about what is known about the photo, they become historically valuable.

“That will become part of the knowledgebase for future generations. Once the Boomers die off, those photos go away. They aren’t time-stamped the way today’s iPhone photos are. The facial recognition doesn’t exist for them in the cloud. They lived in the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s before the digital camera was really a force.”

Marsh said he’s trying to connect with Ancestry.com and see if they are interested in adding these images to their data base and get a pilot project going with seniors in Maricopa to start moving these historic images into the cloud.

“We are an insular community, just as if we were an island off the coast of Hawaii,” Marsh said. “We are between two Indian reservations. You can do things here and word doesn’t leak out. We can get a pilot project going here with a senior center of some sort to use Android and iPhone technology to digitize photos.”

Marsh said with the proper application on a phone, the digital images taken of these old photographs are as good as, and even better than, computer scans of the images.

“With the right app, a senior could scan some photos and get four or eight at a time in one shot,” he said. “Bring them up on a big screen, go in with a mouse and keyboard and tag those photos. Give them a title and sub-title, add names and locations.”

Marsh hopes to nail down several things to get the project off the ground, including determining what phone applications work best and a place to start the project. He is also hoping for partnerships with large technology companies.

“Where seniors could gather around and have multiple work stations. They can socialize while they’re doing it,” Marsh said.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. The brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit because habits allow our minds to ramp down; an effort-saving instinct.

Merriam Dictionary defines habit as an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.

Charles Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habit” explains once a habit is established your brain can take a backseat in the decision making. You instinctively do a task without much thought or conscious decision. You will continue to, unless you make the deliberate decision to fight back against the habit.

As we go through life we create habits that are normal to our everyday routine. These habits can be good or bad for our health or not impact our health at all.

Daily Health Lifestyles lists 12 habits we may do every day and should make an effort to avoid as soon as possible. A sampling:

Slouching while walking. Slouching is a habit that, for some, has become a way of life. The way we walk illustrates the mood we are in or how we are feeling. Walking with the back straight and the chest out means we are feeling excited or eager for what is ahead. Slouching may signal depression or not feeling motivated.

Letting others get the best of you. It is all-too common to worry about what others think about you and try their hardest to impress the ones that make an impression on a lot of people.

Procrastination. When you put things off until a later date you begin to subconsciously worry about not getting the task completed on time. Your sleep could be affected. And it could lead to the task becoming more difficult to complete because you have thought about this one task for so long you become anxious and stressed.

Multi-tasking. An increasing number of people multitask and often complete the work of three people at the same time. We are not allowing ourselves and our brains the small breaks necessary throughout the day.

Talking solely through text and social media. This has become a habit that should/must be avoided. There is nothing wrong with using text messaging or social media as means of contact; the problem comes when this is your only method of communication. Talking face to face with people allows us to become more intimate and allows the conversation to be more meaningful

Habits are here to stay, never truly disappearing. But, they can be overcome by learning new routines and practicing them over and over again.

Information from “Power of Habits and Daily Health Lifestyles” by Charles Duhigg.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.


MMCC will host a free briefing on “The Dangers of Long-Term Opioid Usage by Seniors,” March 22 at 2-4 p.m., at the Copper Sky Police Substation Community Conference Room. Presented by the Pinal-Gila Council for Seniors, it will cover both consequences and alternatives and will be appropriate for both seniors and caregivers. Light refreshments will be available.

Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium (MMCC) provides educational programs important to senior needs and is working toward providing venues where seniors can gather and receive services.

MMCC exists to fill gaps in the City’s vision, plans and actions and to stir the pot to make things move in directions that are important to Maricopans in general. We are successful when our pot-stirring is effective, when those gaps get filled.

In recent times, MMCC has been asking the City:

  • To staff a person to coordinate the landing of national, state and regional senior services in our city so seniors don’t have to go to Casa Grande or Florence. The good news is City Manager Rick Horst and Community Services Director Nathan Ullyot have hired a senior-focused staff member, Brandelyn Baumhefner, to work on this issue.
  • For an increased focus on seniors at Copper Sky, especially when Copper Sky’s resources are underutilized during hours when commuters are out of town and when many parents are helping their kids with homework. Ullyot has a bunch of new concepts at the idea stage.
  • For some sort of senior center or a set of variously focused senior centers, perhaps a combination of physical and virtual/online centers, opportunistically using existing resources because of low levels of available funding. Horst, City Councilmember Nancy Smith, Age-Friendly Committee Chair Joan Koczor and County Supervisor Anthony Smith have responded at their levels and we have some excellent ideas in the pipeline, including a possible path to augment Copper Sky’s possible senior fitness center with a senior social center (with hot meals and social activities) in a city building currently being used for other things.

MMCC’s original goal was to create a community center with multi-focused, multi-generation, multi-cultural resources for people to come together to have a wide variety of events that are larger than somebody’s living room, more open than someone’s church, and lower cost than some commercial establishment.

Within the context of an eventual community center goal, MMCC down-focused its first project focusing on the group’s first and highest priority – seniors and Maricopa’s growth-killing embarrassment of being one of the only cities in Arizona without a senior center.

Ted Yocum, MMCC President
Bob Marsh, MMCC Treasurer
Al Brandenburg, MMCC Secretary


By Bob Marsh

Bob Marsh

I repeatedly see Facebook posts asking, “What services are available to seniors in Maricopa?” The question is coming from seniors who want to retire here, from homeowners who want to relocate their parents here, from retirees who are learning what it’s like to live on a fixed income, and from seniors who need help or are looking to enhance their lifestyle and get the most out of their senior years.

While the City of Maricopa and the Maricopa Unified School District have done a good job of providing a temporary replacement for the demolished Copa Center in the form of classrooms where seniors can gather to play cards, and while City Council has supported a monthly game night at Copper Sky, the senior years aren’t all fun and games. Our civilization has created an extensive set of resources and services to enhance our seniors’ lives and to provide a safety net when needed.

The Maricopa Multi-Cultural Consortium (MMCC) is working to pull together an inventory of all the federal, state, regional, county and local resources and services available to seniors, their families and their caregivers.

To start this off, MMCC, in cahoots with Joan Koczor and Arnold Jackson from the City’s Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee, hosted a presentation by the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens at the Copper Sky Police Substation in October. The presentation covered a timely summary of Medicare-based resources. (Medicare Open Enrollment is Oct. 15-Dec.7.) The presenter also provided information covering a long list of senior resources available through the Pinal-Gila Council and the Arizona Department of Economic Security, including categories like:

  • Adult Protective Services
  • Addiction and Drug Management
  • Aging, Disability and Caregiver Resources
  • Benefits, Entitlements, and Advocacy
  • Financial and Legal Planning Services
  • Food and Nutrition Assistance
  • Health, Medical, and Long-Term Care
  • Housing and Utilities Assistance
  • Independent Living Services
  • In-Home Services and Personal Care
  • Mobility Management
  • Pets and Pet Care
  • Physical Fitness Resources
  • Recreation and Community
  • Senior Employment and Adult Education
  • Transportation
  • Travel and Tourism
  • Tribal Services
  • Veterans Services
  • Volunteer Opportunities and Community Involvement

We’ll be working to add to this list and fill in the many resources available in each category along with information on how to access these resources.

Some key resources:

Most of these senior services are available online, by phone and through administrators and volunteers at Pinal and Gila counties’ Senior Centers in Apache Junction, Coolidge, Florence, Casa Grande, Eloy, Globe, Hayden, Miami, Payson and Superior.

Bob Marsh is a director and treasurer of the Maricopa Multi-Cultural Consortium and can be reached at bobmarsh@alum.mit.edu.

This column appears in part in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Silver Sneakers exercise classes are geared toward older adults. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Ted Yocum

Ted Yocum

“If we could turn the benefits of exercise into a pill, it would be demanded by patients and subsidized by government – it would be seen as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.”

So says Professor Prue Cormic, chair of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, who helped formulate a position paper based on data gathered worldwide from 20 health organizations as quoted in the Arizona Republic.

There is overwhelming evidence that exercise for cancer patients contributes to longer life and less recurrence. What does exercise do for cancer patients?

  • Lowers the risk of heart disease. It can help overcome the stress of chemotherapy and radiation on the cardiovascular system.
  • Lessens the risk of osteoporosis and diabetes.
  • Improves your mood—lowers the risk of being anxious and depressed.
  • Helps with fatigue and tiredness.
  • Lessens nausea.
  • Contributes to higher self-esteem and helps improve your ability to keep social contacts.
  • Greater bone and muscle strength, less weight gain, leaner body mass.
  • Stress reduction. To quote the National Cancer Institute, “Evidence from experimental studies does suggest that psychological stress can affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread.”

The list goes on.

General factors that may affect your ability to exercise include the type and stage of your cancer, your treatment regimen, and your overall endurance, strength and fitness level.

Generally, The American Cancer Society recommends “at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity at least three times a week.” However, as with any exercise program, it is important to first consult with your oncologist, get a physical examination, then discuss what is right for you considering your own abilities, stamina, limitations, frequency. Also, cancer patients may be at slightly higher risk for heart problems, which should be discussed with your doctor(s).

 The Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium (MMCC) will present another educational program for seniors and their families Oct. 25, 2-4 p.m., at the Maricopa Police Department Community Conference Room (adjacent to Copper Sky). The topic will be “Benefits, Entitlements and Advocacy for Senior Citizens,” presented by Jane Jones and Jean Carr, benefit specialists from the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior citizens (PGCSC), a part of the State Region V Area Agency on Aging. Al Brandenburg, 315-427-5507

Finally, even if the cancer is advanced, or has spread to other places and is not responding to treatment, it might still benefit from exercise at some level to improve quality of life. But, the situation can change quickly. It is essential to base physical activity on continued close contact with your doctor along with your ongoing and changing goals and abilities.

Ted Yocum is a member of the Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium and the Copa Seniors.

This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.



By Joan Koczor

Older adults need to be extra careful of overheating and heat stroke. As we age, our bodies cannot adjust to high temperatures as well.

Our sense of thirst decreases, which can cause seniors to not realize they are thirsty and face the dangers of dehydration. Common medications, such as those for blood pressure, flush water from the body. Diuretics or low-salt diets could also affect the way your body regulates temperature. Side effects from some medications can cause excessive sweating and diarrhea.

A daily intake of about six 8-ounce glasses of water is about average. Medications you are taking are also a consideration, so talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking each day.

A few simple steps can make a difference in how you handle these excessive temperatures.

Schedule a checkup for your home or car air conditioner – make sure both are running properly.

Keep the shades/blinds closed during the hottest part of the day. Eat light, cold meals like salads and chicken.

Drink plenty of cool water throughout the day. A body that is hydrated feels cooler and can regulate temperatures better. Lessen your caffeine intake. Take a cool shower. Put a cold cloth on the back of your neck. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Fans help circulate the air and can make an air-conditioned house feel cooler. Freeze plastic bottles of water, take one with you when you go outside. As the ice melts, you will have a supply of cold water.

Visit a shopping mall, library or coffee shop. Go see a movie.

Drinking enough water every day is one of the smartest, simplest ways to keep the body functioning properly. Be aware of the signs of dehydration – dry mouth/skin, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat – and use these tips to keep cool throughout the summer. And don’t forget to take that water bottle wherever you go.

Remember, pets also need to be protected from dehydration and many heat-related illnesses.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

By Joan Koczor 

Initially, your primary care provider will be the first step in diagnosing many health issues. He will recommend screening, help you manage chronic conditions and, if needed, refer you to other types of providers or specialists.

A short list of specialists may include cardiologists, oncologists, allergists, psychologists, podiatrists and orthopedists.

Through all this, your life has changed – you’ve become a patient.

Your days are no longer ordinary. There are examinations, medications, diagnosis and treatment options, doctor appointments, hospital stays, decisions to make, endless paperwork, phone calls to health insurers. Who can you turn to in time of an emergency?

Dealing with any illness can be a very stressful time for patients and their families.

Add to that the health care system has become so confusing – think walking through a maze – that some patients may need someone to help them navigate.

A new trend is enlisting a patient advocate.

An advocate may be a member of your family or a close friend. An effective advocate is someone you trust and will act on your behalf as well as work with other members of your health care team.

Another type of advocate is a professional advocate. Hospitals usually have professionals who play this role called patient representatives or patient advocates. Social workers or nurses may also fill this role.

In choosing a patient advocate, it is important to decide what you want help with and what you can handle without assistance.

Do you need a better understanding of options for hospitals, doctors, diagnostic tests? Assurance your wishes are carried out if there comes a time you might not be able to do that yourself? Would you like your advocate to accompany you to tests, appointments, treatments and procedures? Assist you in wading through the never-ending medical bills? Become your representative to health care providers?

It is important to let your physician and those caring for you know who your advocate is and how much involvement they have in your care. Make sure your doctors and nurses have your advocate’s contact information. And the same for your advocate – provide them with numbers for your health care provider, hospital and pharmacy and anyone you wish contacted in case of an emergency.

Not all advocates charge a fee. Not all who do will charge for their services in exactly the same way. The cost may depend on:

  • your location, or your location in relation to where they are located.
  • the advocate’s experience and education.
  • the amount of time you work together.

Additional factors like necessary travel, acquisition of medical records, or others may cause the price to fluctuate.

PatientAdvocate.org, AdvoConnection.com/advocatelocations/arizona

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa Magazine.

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

Mesothelioma (me-zoe-thee-lee-O-muh) is a rare type of cancer of the mesothelium caused by exposure to asbestos. The mesothelium is a thin membrane that protects and lubricates different body cavities, such as the chest and abdominal cavities.

Men 60 years and older are often diagnosed several years after exposure. Women have contracted this disease from washing their husbands’ clothes, although the husband – exposed to asbestos – does not contract this disease.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that resembles a rock in its natural form. The rock will split into fibers, which are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals. Considered a natural product, it was widely used in the United States until the late 1970s. Over 3,000 products containing asbestos were in general use until the late 1980s.

Asbestos materials have been used in every branch of the military until the late 1970s. As a result, 30 percent of veterans have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

It takes 20 to 50 years to develop and occurs in the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart.

There are three types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural: Cancer of the lungs which is the most common because most asbestos fibers are inhaled. Symptoms may include shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Peritoneal: Cancer of the abdomen. It is caused by ingesting asbestos fibers. Symptoms may include weight loss and nausea.
  • Pericardial: Cancer surrounding the heart. This is the rarest form and is rarely diagnosed while the patient is still alive.

Mesothelioma is often mistaken for less serious conditions. If you have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing symptoms attributed to this disease, consult your family doctor. They will perform the basic tests and X-rays. Based on the results, your doctor will refer you to a radiologist who will do extensive testing – X-ray, CAT scan, PET scan and CT scan. These tests are used in the diagnosis of this disease.

A surgical biopsy is done and sent to a pathologist for review. A pathologist will review fluid or tissue biopsy samples to determine cell type. If the results of these tests determine further treatment is required, a qualified specialist will be suggested. One who has a wide range of extensive experience with mesothelioma cases.

A pulmonologist specializes in lung disease and evaluates lung function. A gastroenterologist specializes in disease of the digestive system and tissues which occur in the abdominal region. A cardiologist specializes in heart defects and other heart disorders.

Only 20 U.S. doctors specialize in the treatment of this disease.

The Mesothelioma Organization offers a doctor-match program, saving time and expense to those seeking treatment. Patient advocates are also available to answer questions and provide information.




Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee. The Mesothelioma Guide provided information for this article.

This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

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By Joan Koczor

U.S. passport fees are going up $10, effective April 2. Adult passport books will be $145, children 16 and younger $115.

Joan Koczor

The less expensive passport cards, which are good for border crossings and travel by sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean but are not valid for international air travel, will increase to $65 for adults and $50 for children.

The price hike is due to an increase in the passport acceptance, or “execution,” fee. The U.S. State Department says it is increasing the passport acceptance fee from $25 to $35 to better cover the costs of processing passport applications.

The $10 increase does not apply to passport renewals by mail. Application fees, the biggest part of the cost of a passport, are not increasing.

This year, travelers from some states may need a passport card and not just a boarding pass and driver’s license to get through domestic airport security. While Arizona is already compliant with the REAL ID Act, which went into effect in January, other states received an extension to become compliant.

Ohio, for instance, is scheduled to become compliant in July, and Michigan will be compliant in October. Until then, travelers from those and other non-compliant states may need to show TSA agents a passport card.

REAL ID established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses (and ID cards) and prohibits the Transportation Security Administration from accepting cards that don’t meet the standards.

Passport cards were largely designed to be a smaller, less expensive alternative to a traditional passport book. It serves the same purpose as a regular passport book in that it allows you to prove both your U.S. citizenship and your identity while you’re traveling around the world. Instead of being a large book such as a passport book, a passport card is similar in size to a traditional credit card.

It also contains a radio frequency identification chip, also commonly referred to as RFID, as a security measure to help protect against identity theft.


Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Board.

Source: https://go.usa.gov/xn7Ph

This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.



A citywide, free program aims to assist its homebound residents through phone calls and social visits.

The You Are Not Alone (YANA) program launched in 2015 and has since saved lives, said Mary Witkofski, Maricopa’s community programs manager.

Maricopa Police Department volunteers make weekly phone calls to participants. If contact is not made after three attempts, an emergency contact person is notified.

That’s what happened one Fourth of July two years ago when a woman was not answering a volunteer’s calls.

“The emergency contact, thank goodness, lives down the street,” Witkofski said. “He went (to her house) and actually found his mother laying on the floor.”

Emergency responders transported her to a local hospital where she eventually recovered.

Situations like these, Witkofski said, are reasons YANA is effective; and in cases where an emergency contact person cannot be reached, YANA volunteers will enlist the help of MPD.

In addition to the weekly calls, volunteers connect with participants by making quarterly, planned visits to their homes.

Witkofski said the volunteers socialize, play card games and have conversations with the residents.

Volunteers pass a fingerprint and background clearance and then go through training. MPD volunteers are mandatory reporters to adult protective services and have learned to identify signs of late-life domestic violence, abuse, depression, identity theft and scam.

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, a senior advocate through Maricopa Seniors Inc., said YANA is a valuable resource for seniors living alone “because it’s a way to ‘stay connected’ and let people know that there is always someone who cares about their well-being.”

Generally, program participants are over 65 and live alone or are alone during the day and have limited mobility.

“(YANA’s purpose) is to maintain their independence, not take it away from them and I think that’s an important piece,” Witkofski said.

Age is not necessarily a qualifying condition, however. Those who have disabilities or are at home recovering from a procedure and are alone during the day are also are eligible for the program.

Qualified, part-time residents are also eligible to enroll while they are living in the city.

The program currently has 19 enrollees and Witkofski would like to see more.

“We definitely have room for growth,” she said.

YANA partners with community and social service agencies like the Maricopa Public Library’s All Access Homebound Delivery, COMET transit, Age-Friendly Committee and the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens to provide additional resources for its participants.

The program came about after the city conducted a human-needs assessment which identified a gap in senior assistance.

Witkofski said participants who are hearing impaired can opt for a weekly text message instead of phone call.

520-316-6800, ext. 1234

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

File photo


Resources, exhibitors and informational workshops will return this year to the third annual Senior Info/Expo at City Hall.

The Jan. 20 event is free and open to the public.

As in previous years, attendees will have access to information on dementia and Alzheimer’s, Community Emergency Response Team volunteer opportunities, city transit services, crime prevention, victim advocacy, fire and police services, and senior legal issues and concerns.

Popular workshops on Medicare, Social Security, identity theft and fraud will return this year, as well as hearing and vision screenings among many others, said Arnold Jackson, Age-Friendly Committee coordinator and event organizer.

New this year are workshops on preventing falls and unintentional injuries, and resources for caregivers.

As the event grows, so does its list of vendors. Jackson estimated this year’s event will include a 25-percent increase in the number of exhibitors compared to last year.

“(In 2017), we had over 300 people that attended, so I would anticipate that will continue to grow as well,” Jackson said.

A main goal of the City’s Age-Friendly Committee is providing seniors opportunities to connect with other generations. Jackson said the expo is one way to do that with exhibits on recreational trips and excursions and information on other social events.



What: Senior Info/Expo

When: Jan. 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza

How much: Free

Info: 520-316-6817, Arnold.Jackson@Maricopa-AZ.gov

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Ted Yocum (from left), Bob Marsh and Al Brandenburg are co-founders of Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


A local nonprofit is trimming its expectations of building a community center, focusing instead on a senior center.

“Maricopa is the only city in Arizona without a senior center,” Al Brandenburg said, an officer for the Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium. “Why not? Why don’t we have one here?”

The group took up the cause last year as reality sank in that the Copa Center would be demolished for the overpass. They formed the Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium to acquire land and build a building, envisioning meeting rooms, kitchen, stage, classrooms, museum and storage. But that stalled.

In an agreement the City worked with Maricopa Unified School District, seniors now have dedicated space at Santa Cruz Elementary School for recreation. “And that’s wonderful for the moment,” said Bob Marsh, another MMCC founder. “But people need a place to land.”

MMCC will be one of about 30 exhibitors at this year’s Senior Info/Expo Jan. 20 at City Hall.

“We’ve talked to folks,” said Ted Yocum, an MMCC co-founder. “They tell us, ‘We would love to have Mom and Dad living near us, but there’s nothing in Maricopa for them.’”

The needs, Marsh said, are more than having a place to play cards. They want a gathering spot with room for senior programs on health, taxes, exercise, meals and entertainment. They need grant-writing expertise to fund both a building and the programming.

MMCC continues to battle the misconception all seniors have access to Province, which is a high-end, gated community with amenities available only to its residents. Yocum said about a third of seniors are living on Social Security checks of less than $1,000 a month.

2018 is an election year for city council, and Marsh said MMCC is “going to intersect with people running for office” in hopes that a segment of the population with a lot of votes will get more attention.

“There’s a voice that needs to be heard,” Yocum said.

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

As with every new year, we can expect changes in 2018.

The increase in transportation costs, fires and flooding throughout the United States all have an impact on the cost of food and household goods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the retail price of food — everything from eggs to beef – will increase by 1-2 percent.

Expect an increase in the most popular health insurance plans. The demand for natural gas is expected to exceed supply, resulting in an increase in cost. According to the National Park Services, entry fees for America’s most popular national parks will rise during peak visitation times.

The U.S. Postal Service announced price increases for letter delivery and priority mail. UPS announced an average of 4.9 percent for package, air freight and freight delivery. FedEx will raise rates for express, ground, freight and FedEx One Rate Pricing.

Movie theaters are considering increasing the ticket price of the more popular movies and lowering the price of less popular movies.

Changes in Social Security in 2018 have yet to be announced. Will benefits increase? How restrictive are the guidelines in the new or modified program? Will the changes affect your ability to get by each month? Sixty-six million Americans, including 46 million seniors, may be affected.

The Social Security Administration released its “adjustment reports” for 2018. Changes you can expect to Social Security in 2018 are:

A “sort of” raise. This year, seniors will receive a 2-percent increase in Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA hasn’t been this high in six years), which amounts to $27 per month on average.

The maximum Social Security benefit for those who will begin collecting benefits at full retirement age will increase to $2,788 in 2018.

Full retirement age will rise in 2018. Those born between 1943 and 1954 must wait until they reach 66 years of age to receive 100 percent of their monthly benefit. Full retirement age for those born in 1956 is 66 years and 4 months.

More security features will be added to the Social Security website. A two-factor

authentication will be required to access personal information. To log on, users must enter a one-time code and a username and password.

New Medicare cards will contain a combination of letters and numbers offering a better level of protection.

This is just a sampling of what to expect in 2018. Understandably, change is not always welcome. We become accustomed to our day-to-day and don’t appreciate something new. For some, change can add a level of anticipation to see what the day will bring.

Embrace each day – changes and all.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee

This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Bob Marsh. Photo by Michelle Chance

Semi-retired engineer Bob Marsh moved to Maricopa seven years ago and has since sought to cure his insatiable itch to fix problems in the community by seeking them out himself.

“I think that’s what we’re here on the planet for – to help each other,” Marsh says.

He’s a figure in the city, holding many positions in various groups with local government. Marsh is a Planning & Zoning commissioner, treasurer of the Maricopa Multicultural Consortium, member of the Subdivision Ordinance Rewrite Team, and member on the Desert Cedars HOA board of directors.

Marsh thinks big picture, but can also focus on the details, especially when it comes to how a project will look in Maricopa and how it will make Maricopa feel, said Maricopa City Councilmember Peggy Chapados, who appointed him to P&Z in 2014.

Most recently, Marsh ran for a seat on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board. Out of 36 total votes cast, Marsh lost by two in October to ED3 Design Engineer Scott Kelley.

“There were two engineers running, so people couldn’t lose,” Marsh said. “It was a good solution, whoever got it.”

Finding answers to difficult situations is programmed in Marsh, an MIT graduate who over his long career has worked on projects affiliated with the likes of the FBI, NASA and tech giant Microsoft among many others.

On his first day at the elite tech school, Marsh sat with the rest of his class inside Kresge Auditorium where the cohort learned their mission was to “learn enough that you can help solve problems.”

He took it seriously, and early into his profession was on the ground floor of the computer industry.

In the late ‘60s, Marsh worked on the instrumentation for the OAO-2 satellite. The system he helped develop was later instrumental in assisting the first successful mission to the moon, Marsh says.

“That system that I did was also back up for the main communication system on the lunar lander when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon and the IBM system crashed, and my system cut in,” Marsh says.

Although his work has helped humans land foot on alien soil, Marsh stays grounded.

To resolve his neighbors’ high cost of watering large expanses of turf in his subdivision, he developed a test strip of sustainable xeriscape nearby. Desert Cedars does not have access to reclaimed water for its landscaping, and is instead forced to use expensive drinking water.

After three years, the experiment worked and now Desert Cedars will convert several acres of grass to granite gravel and decorative desert plants.

But Marsh’s vision for Maricopa expands beyond that of his neighborhood, of course.

Prior to P&Z, Marsh was on the Board of Adjustment with the city and was later a heavy contributor to Maricopa’s 20/40 Vision General Plan Update, a document outlining the city’s future direction and growth. He then served on the Zoning Code Rewrite Taskforce, also known to Marsh as “440 pages of pure pain.”

Additionally, his work on the Multicultural Consortium advocates for a legitimate senior center in the city.

“The senior problem is one problem. Watering your turf with potable water is another problem. If you add it all up, you have 347 problems,” Marsh says with a smile. “I’m a problem solver.”

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

As we age, there is a greater emphasis on fitness to maintain health, independence and functionality.

Physical activity on a daily basis is one of the best things you can do for your health. Controlling weight, strengthening bones and muscles and improving your mental health and mood are just a few of the benefits. You may also notice an increase in your ability to do daily activities.

Any amount of exercise is better than none. If your current lifestyle is that of couch potato, any increase in exercise or physical activity is beneficial. I’m not talking about running a marathon or a strenuous workout each day. Start with simple exercises such as a 15-30-minute walk each day.

Think you need more? Check out senior aging classes such as Silver Sneakers. Copper Sky offers fitness classes and water aerobics with seniors in mind.

Choose a fitness program best suited to your needs and more importantly one you will stick with.

What are your physical abilities? Do you have a medical problem that prohibits certain exercise? Are you confined to a wheelchair? Do you have mobility issues? A low-impact fitness program can be done from a chair or wheelchair.

Not ready for a structured fitness program? Consider moderate- or low-impact exercises, something you might ordinarily do every day and actually enjoy like walking, biking, gardening or water aerobics.

Attitude is important. Before you start any fitness program, ask yourself why you are doing this. Do you want to make lifestyle changes? Are you tired of being unable to perform everyday chores?

Set your goals and keep track of your progress. Keep a chart on the refrigerator – that way when you reach for a snack you may think twice and reach for something healthy.

Most important, check with your doctor before you begin any fitness program. Information is out there – just ask or go online.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

This column appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Cross country and track volunteer coach Manuel Quintana works with head coach Heather Abel at Maricopa High School. Photo by Victor Moreno

By Joycelyn Cabrera

At 68 years old, volunteer cross-country coach Manuel Quintana has an unusual nickname around the Maricopa High School campus.

The students refer to him as “Grandpa” or “Coach Grandpa.” Quintana said the students have called him Grandpa for many years, ever since he began coaching his granddaughter, who called him “Tata,” a Spanish term of endearment for grandfathers. Once he told students, “Tata means Grandpa,” the nickname spread.

Quintana has volunteered as a coach at MHS for more than a decade. Originally from Mesa, Quintana graduated from Westwood High School and attended Mesa Community College before transferring to ASU. Quintana left the university to pursue a mechanics apprenticeship and stayed in the field 25 years. Quintana moved to Maricopa in 1978 and worked as a mechanic before beginning a new “career” as a volunteer coach.

Quintana began working with the MHS cross-country team after he realized he enjoyed coaching his granddaughter, a former student. He became involved with the Rams’ sports program simply because he liked working with the students and watching them improve. Quintana has helped student-athletes progress from running a half-mile to nearly three miles mid-season.

For five years, Quintana has worked with head coach Heather Abel, who doubles as an MHS teacher. Abel regards him as someone who “has been a real positive influence with the kids.”

“He really knows his stuff. He loves it. Everybody knows who he is,” she said.

The student-athletes themselves adore their coach, feeling positive about their progress individually and as a team.

“We work hard,” senior Megan Carr said. “It’s definitely a mental sport; it’s difficult, but it’s worth it.”

Quintana hopes his teaching and coaching will result in constant improvement for the students, passing on the knowledge of previous coaches like Duane Anderson and Ronnie Buchanan.

And being called Grandpa? Quintana feels good about the nickname: “It shows they have a lot of respect.”

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

By Joan Koczor

Joan Koczor

Open enrollment in Medicare begins Oct. 15.

Rebecca Jennings, program director for Medicare from Pinal Gila Council for Seniors, will give a presentation about Medicare on Oct. 23 at Maricopa City Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, President Lyndon B. Johnson made Medicare law by signing H.R. 6675 in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, became the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative opposed by Congress at the time.

Medicare is a single-payer, national, social insurance program administered by the federal government. Coverage for this program became effective in 1966. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966

Many people are already enrolled in Medicare, and many of you may be eligible for coverage beginning in 2018.

To better understand what open enrollment is about – before you make any major changes to your existing coverage – here are a few of the plans offered:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) Costs. Most people don’t pay a Part A premium because they paid Medicare taxes while working. If you don’t get premium-free Part A, you pay up to $413 each month.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) Costs. The standard Part B premium amount in 2017 is $134 (or higher depending on your income). Most people who get Social Security benefits pay less than this because the Part B premium increased more than the cost-of-living increase for 2017 Social Security benefits. If you pay your Part B premium through your monthly Social Security benefit, you pay less ($109 on average). Social Security will tell you the exact amount of your Part B premium.

Medicare Advantage Plan or Part C. If you have Medicare Advantage or Part C, take a few minutes to review your coverage as plan benefits can change year to year. Before open enrollment begins, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change, which provides any changes in your Medicare Advantage plan’s cost, benefits, provider network and other rules as they apply to the coming year. At this time, you can change plans or switch back to Medicare Part A and Part B. Keep in mind if you do switch back, consider a Medicare Supplement to cover what Medicare doesn’t.

Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D. At this time, you can switch your Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan. Also at this time you should receive an Annual Notice of Change. Please review it carefully as drug formularies can change each year. A drug covered in 2016 may not be covered in 2017.

If you are satisfied with your current Medicare coverage you need to do nothing. However, at this time you can explore what other coverages are available and if they better serve your needs.

A trained – and trusted – insurance professional can provide detailed information about the Medicare plans available, answer any questions or concerns you may have and explain other options that may work better for you.

Information is out there – just ask or go online.

Medicare2017.org, Medicare.gov

This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Medicare or Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans (sometimes called Medicare Part C) are offered by private insurance companies as an alternative to traditional Medicare. Their insurance benefits cover the same services as traditional Medicare Part A and B, but some plans also offer prescription drug coverage (Part D). Medicare Advantage plans may have slightly different (usually lower) costs and out-of-pocket expenses; some plans charge an additional premium. Access is often more restricted because these are HMO or PPO plans, i.e. you may not be able to see all providers under a Medicare Advantage plan that you can under Medicare. First-time enrollees are automatically enrolled in traditional Medicare but may choose to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan at the time of enrollment or annually after that.

Medicare v. Medicare Advantage
Medicare Medicare Advantage
Overview Medicare in the U.S. is an insurance program that primarily covers seniors ages 65 and older and disabled individuals of any age who qualify for Social Security. It also covers those of any age with end-stage renal disease. Medicare Advantage, sometimes known as Part C, is a private insurance alternative that replaces “Original Medicare” Parts A and B. Some Medicare Advantage plans even cover prescription, or Medicare Part D.
Type of program Government-run Private
Eligibility Regardless of income, anyone turning 65 can enroll in Medicare so long as they paid into Medicare/Social Security funds. People of any age with severe disabilities and end-stage renal disease are also eligible. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan, a potential subscriber must already be eligible for Original Medicare, pay the monthly Part B premium, and not have end-stage renal disease.
Services Covered Routine and emergency care, hospice, family planning, some substance and smoking cessation programs. Limited dental and vision. Everything covered by Original Medicare. Also often covers prescription drugs and may cover dental, vision and hearing. May have special preventive care coverage, like gym membership.
Cost to Enrollees Part A costs nothing for those who paid Medicare taxes for 10 years or more (or had a spouse who did). Part B in costs $109 per month for most on Social Security. Part D costs vary, usually around $30 per month. Medicare Advantage costs vary. Must pay Original Medicare’s Part B premium, plus — usually — a monthly Medicare Advantage premium (approx. $30-$65). Likely required to pay a copay to visit a doctor. Coinsurance costs vary.