Second Chances 3

An Encore Career More Meaningful Than the First

Baby Boomers are turning 65 at a rate of almost 10,000 a day. And many of them aren’t ready to retire. Some continue working because they haven’t saved enough money or have other concerns. Many, like Cindy Loftin, are breaking stereotypes and choosing second careers because they still have more to offer.

Originally from Louisiana, Loftin transferred with AT&T, then Southwestern Bell, to Oklahoma City and then to Tulsa in 2000. She was only in Tulsa for a day when the company offered her and other long-term employees the opportunity take an early retirement. The offer was too good to pass up, so Loftin retired from corporate life at the young age of 50.

Five years later, after traveling and completing several home projects, she realized she wasn’t really doing much—just biding time. She had already crossed most of the items off her bucket list years before and was looking for a new adventure.

“I had a friend on the board of directors for LIFE Senior Services,” says Loftin. “A new position opened up to help educate and guide seniors through the new Medicare Part D benefit and she thought it would be a perfect fit for me. It was right up my alley because of my corporate training, so I signed on.”

Loftin was hired on a six-month grant from the National Council on Aging. That was nearly 10 years ago.

Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program of Medicare, can be a valuable cost savings to seniors if they are on the right plan. If not, it could cost them hundreds or thousands of unnecessary additional dollars. Last year, Loftin and her team at LIFE Senior Services helped people save $1.6 million by switching their plans.

Medicare gets more and more confusing each year. Seniors receive a flood of mailers from insurance companies during the open enrollment period, October 15th to December 7th, leaving doubt in their minds if they have proper coverage. Loftin encourages people to take advantage of free counseling services.

“It may be that the plan they are on is exactly where they need to be, but maybe it’s not and we can save them some money,” she says. “Everyone, not just people on Medicare, should review their insurance each year to make sure they have the best coverage.”

She says she knew nothing about Medicare when she started working at LIFE Senior Services. She was fortunate to have medical coverage through her employer her entire adult life and never had to worry about it. She quickly learned the intricacies of the program and got to work. It turned out to be the most rewarding job she has ever had.

“I’ve only had one job in my life with AT&T/Southwestern Bell,” she says. “I’ve always felt like I did a good job for them and they were a really good company. But, I never felt like I made a difference in someone’s quality of life like I do now.”

She says if you want to feel really good, come up to the clinic when they are helping people. The stories are amazing.

“I am 65 years old now. A little fringe benefit is that many of the people we help are older than me, so I feel very young—but I also feel very honored that they let me help them. And so, for my heart, I get a lot out of this,” she says. “We have a wonderful team of volunteers and they all feel the same way I do. We have clients who came to us in the beginning of the program who return year after year and have become like family. When I’m gone, this will be a legacy that I can leave that helps people.”

The program operates all year long, not just during the Medicare enrollment period. More than 10,000 people become eligible for Medicare each day. Although they do not help seniors enroll in the actual Medicare program, Loftin and her team can help them with the “Part D” drug benefit.

Loftin is certified by the Oklahoma Insurance Commission to provide free educational services to seniors and their adult children. She uses a tool on the Medicare website to determine the best drug plan for each individual. She puts in the person’s medications and it provides different plan options. She reiterates that the only way to compare the 24-31 available plans is to use the tool on the Medicare website.

“It’s really easy, after the first thousand times you do it,” she says.

Luckily, Loftin is familiar with all the subtleties of the website. In fact, the reason LIFE Senior Services received funding by the National Council on Aging in the first place was because many of the 47 million people who became eligible in 2006 for the new drug program didn’t own a computer, didn’t want a computer and had no idea how to use a computer. And unfortunately, using the Medicare website is the only way to enroll.

Listening to Loftin speak of the program is a bit daunting. It’s easy to see how someone can be overwhelmed by the process. What’s not daunting, however, is the overwhelming pride she has for her volunteers and staff at LIFE Senior Services.

“I love this job so much,” she says. “I love the service we provide. I joke about how someday when the program is over, the staff is going to have to vote on who has to tell me to go home. Otherwise, I’m just going to keep coming to work!”

The success stories are endless, but one in particular stands out.

“There was a woman a couple of years ago who told us we saved her life. She was crying, and was looking for someone to help her deal with her end-of-life issues. She could not afford the medications she needed to stay alive. The plan she was on did not cover them but we were able to find one that covered all the drugs she needed,” she says.

Helping people has been a real lifesaver for Loftin as well. Sadly, she lost her son last year and it has been difficult.

“If I didn’t have this, it would have been much harder. I have struggled with life the last year, but by giving back, it continues to help me. I often think it helps me more than it helps others,” she says.

She looks forward to seeing familiar faces when the enrollment period rolls around each year. The same people come back every year and even look forward to it, which is a testament that Loftin and her team are obviously doing something right.

She says, “I truly enjoy what I do and I’m going to continue doing it until they figure out who’s going to tell me that I have to leave.”