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  • 14Oct

    Clinics scheduled in Stockton, Tracy, Lodi, Berkeley, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland

    One of our California Health Advocates board members, Rajul Patel and his pharmacy students at University of the Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences will be offering health clinics in 7 cities throughout Northern California this fall to help Medicare beneficiaries save on their prescription drug costs and better understand their medications. The clinics will also offer a variety of health care screenings and services.

    Now in its 8th year, Rajul and his students participating in Pacific’s Mobile Medicare Clinics have served a total of 2,911 Medicare enrollees and saved seniors and other beneficiaries more than $2.2 million on their out-of-pocket Medicare Part D prescription drug costs, for an average savings of $769 per person per year.

    This year’s clinics will be offered during the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period, Oct. 15th through Dec. 7, in 4 Bay Area cities – Berkeley, San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland – as well as 3 Central Californian cities – Lodi, Stockton and Tracy. (Dates and locations are listed below.)

    Trained pharmacy students will assist beneficiaries with Part D plan review and enrollment, determine if they qualify for additional government assistance to help lower their out-of-pocket medication costs, and explore other cost-savings opportunities.

    Attendees will also receive a comprehensive review of all of their medications and have all of their medication-related questions answered. Since the program’s inception, Pacific student pharmacists have identified 137 potentially severe medication-related issues among clinic attendees, including severe drug-drug interactions and sub-optimal drug therapy that warranted physician follow-up.

    Under the supervision of licensed pharmacists, the student pharmacists will also offer vaccinations, including the flu and pneumococcal vaccines; diabetes screening; and blood pressure, cholesterol and bone-density testing.

    All told, pharmacy students have held 73 clinics in 16 California cities since the program first began, volunteering a combined 9,072 hours of time.

    If you would like to have your Part D plan reviewed and/or have a comprehensive evaluation of your medication, please call for an appointment. Phone numbers for each clinic site are listed below.

    IMPORTANT: Beneficiaries attending the clinic should bring the following:
    • Their red, white, and blue Medicare card
    • All of their medications

    Bay Area clinics

    San Jose
    Oct. 26, Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    Seven Trees Community Center, 3590 Cas Dr., San Jose
    Call for an appointment: (209) 946-7728

    Oakland
    Nov. 1, Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Allen Temple, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland
    Call for an appointment: (510) 343-2473

    San Francisco
    Nov. 9, Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California St., San Francisco
    Call for an appointment: (415) 292-1200

    Berkeley
    Nov. 22, Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St., Berkeley
    Call for an appointment: (510) 841-4776 ext. 3112

    Central Valley Area clinics

    Lodi
    Oct. 23, Thursday, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
    LOEL Center and Gardens, 105 S. Washington St., Lodi
    Call for an appointment: (209) 369-1591

    Nov. 11, Thursday, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.
    Hutchins Street Square (Room: Kirst Hall), 125 S. Hutchins St., Lodi
    Call for an appointment: (209) 369-6921

    Stockton
    Oct. 17, Friday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
    Franco Center, 144 Mun Kwok Lane, Stockton
    Call for an appointment: (209) 466-4697

    Oct. 18, Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    University of the Pacific, 751 Brookside Road, Stockton
    Call for an appointment: (209) 946-7658

    Oct. 25, Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Harvest House, 1609 N. Wilson Way, Stockton
    Call for an appointment: (209) 477-0378

    Nov. 2, Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    O’Connor Woods, 3400 Wagner Heights Rd., Stockton
    Call for an appointment: (209) 956-3400

    Nov. 14, Friday, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
    First Congregational Church, 3409 Brookside Rd., Stockton
    Call for an appointment: (209) 951-8545

    Nov. 20, Thursday, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
    Northeast Community Center, 2885 E. Harding Way, Stockton
    Call for an appointment: (209) 468-3918

    Tracy
    Oct. 28, Tuesday, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
    Tracy Community Center, 950 East Street, Tracy
    Call for an appointment: (209) 831-4230

    For general information about the program, visit go.pacific.edu/medicare or contact them at (209) 932-2958. See the pdf of the 2014 outreach schedule for a printable copy.

    This article is edited from a Sept 29, 2014 University of the Pacific press release.

  • 07Oct

    Fall Open Enrollment starts on Oct 15th and is the time of year when you can switch your Medicare health and drug coverage. Below are 3 points to guide you in reviewing your Medicare coverage and options AND tips to protect yourself from fraud. These points are taken from the Medicare Minutes program.

    Point 1: Understand your current coverage and how it may change to help protect yourself against Medicare fraud.

    If you choose not to act, membership in your Medicare plan—whether Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan—automatically renews each year (unless you’re in a non-renewing MA plan — see our website section When Medicare Advantage Plans Terminate Coverage). Understanding your current coverage will enable you to make an informed decision about your coverage for 2015 and help you detect Medicare fraud. At the end of September, you should have received mail from your current plan about its 2015 coverage. This should have included information about changes to your plan’s list of covered drugs (formulary), health benefits, and/or premium costs. Plans are allowed to change their cost and coverage rules each year, so it’s important for you to read mail from your plan to see if there are any changes that affect you. If you did not receive this information, call your plan to request it. Keep the mail you receive from your plan and reference it throughout the year. It is a form of Medicare fraud if a plan promises coverage for services, items or drugs that it does not intend to cover – so review and keep your mail to protect yourself.

    Point 2: Match your needs with the appropriate health or drug choice.

    Fall Open Enrollment lasts from October 15 to December 7. For most people, it’s the only time of year to switch your Medicare coverage. Any changes you make during this time will take effect on January 1, 2015. Plans can change their cost and coverage rules annually, so the plan that worked best for you in 2014 may not be the plan that will work best for you in 2015. Even if you are satisfied with your current coverage, you should look at other Medicare options in your area to see whether you can meet your current health care needs at a lower cost. Comparing plans during Open Enrollment and understanding your options will enable you to better detect Medicare fraud when you hear or see something against the rules.

    Before comparing your options, make a list of health care providers you see, prescription drugs you take, and pharmacies you use. When comparing plans, look first at whether the plan covers all the drugs you take and/or has all of your doctors in its network. Then look at the plan costs (premiums, deductible, and copays) and check the plan’s star rating. Keep in mind that a plan that works well for your friend or relative may not work well for you.

    Point 3: Watch out for Medicare fraud.

    One of the most important ways to protect yourself from fraud is never giving out your personal information – including your Medicare or Social Security number – to anyone other than a trusted health care professional. If you do, someone may use it fraudulently. Fraudulent use of a Medicare or Social Security number includes enrolling you in a plan you don’t want during Fall Open Enrollment.

    During Fall Open Enrollment, you should also watch out for Medicare marketing fraud. All plans are allowed to send you mail. However, plans are not allowed to call you without your permission, unless the call is from an insurance company you currently use. All plans (including your current plan) are never allowed to e-mail or visit you in person without your permission. Giving out your number and address to a plan at a presentation or health fair gives the plan permission to follow up with you. However, a plan cannot enroll you in its product without your permission. If you suspect fraud – whether it is marketing or another form – you should call our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) hotline at 855-613-7080.

    Remember to Take Action: Only provide your phone number or address if you want a plan to follow up with more information. If you do not want a plan to contact you for marketing reasons, do not give them permission to do so. Report any suspected fraud to our SMP at 855-613-7080.

  • 30Sep

    As humans, one of our most powerful ways of learning is through stories. It’s also one way to break down cultural bias’ and prejudices…by hearing other people’s stories and realizing our common humanness. One of our Social Security Public Affairs Specialists for Northern California, Deogracias Santos shares an article below on the “faces and facts” of people living with a disability, and some educational videos and resources available on the Social Security website.

    FACES AND FACTS TELL THE STORY OF DISABILITY

    By Deogracias Santos

    Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in the Northern Area

    November is Family Stories Month. Every family has stories—stories are a great way to carry on family legacies, pass lessons on to future generations, and share what is important to your family with the rest of the world. Your family stories may include ones about the birth of a child, serving in war, helping people in need, or the deaths of loved ones.

    We’d like to share some stories about what it means to receive disability benefits from Social Security. And we have a website that does just that: The Faces and Facts of Disability.

    Learning the facts and hearing people’s stories about disability allows for a fuller understanding of what is perhaps the most misunderstood Social Security program. The Social Security Act sets a very strict definition of disability. To receive disability benefits, a person must have an impairment expected to last at least a year or result in death. The impairment must be so severe that it renders the person unable to perform not only his or her previous work, but also any other substantial work in the national job market. Social Security does not provide temporary or partial disability benefits.

    Because the eligibility requirements are so strict, Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country and tend to have high death rates. In addition, Social Security conducts a periodic review of people who receive disability benefits to ensure they remain eligible for disability. Social Security aggressively works to prevent, detect, and prosecute fraud. Social Security often investigates suspicious disability claims before making a decision to award benefits—proactively stopping fraud before it happens. These steps help ensure only those eligible have access to disability benefits.

    If you want to learn more about what happens behind the scenes when someone applies for disability benefits, watch our seven-part video series on the process.

    Please read and watch some of the stories about real cases of people who have benefited from Social Security by visiting the Faces and Facts of Disability website.

    Family and personal stories are great ways to discover important truths.

  • 23Sep

    Did you know that although the U.S. comprises 5% of the world’s population, it holds 50% of pharmaceutical company profits? On a per capita basis, Americans spend about $1,000 per person each year on drugs. That’s approximately 40% more than the next highest spending country, which is Canada.

    There are a number of reasons why this spending imbalance is occurring and some of these are discussed in the PBS articles linked to below. Americans use more drugs and have more access to the newest drugs on the market. They also pay more for them. U.S. prices for brand-name drugs are 50% to 60% higher than in France and twice as high as what citizens of the United Kingdom or Australia pay. That’s because in many countries, government agencies essentially regulate the prices of medicines and limit the amount they will reimburse. There is also a technique called “pay for delay,” in which brand-name manufacturers pay generic manufacturers settlements to keep their competition from producing identical drugs. Another option drug manufacturers use is called “evergreening.” This strategy is to redirect the customer from the drug they are taking to another brand drug the same company is making in an effort to keep them from purchasing the generic alternative

    See the PBS Newshour articles below for more information on why Americans spend so much more on pharmaceuticals than citizens in other democratic countries.

  • 10Sep

    In light of Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, one of our Northern California Social Security Public Affairs Specialists, Deogracias Santos published a short and informative article on some things women should know about Social Security and how to make the most of their entitled benefits. Enjoy and read below!

    WOMEN AND SOCIAL SECURITY

    By Deogracias Santos,

    Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in the Northern Area of California

    Women’s Equality Day is August 26, and this is the perfect time to remind you how much Social Security values and appreciates women. Even though men and women with identical earnings histories receive the same benefits, there are things women in particular should know about Social Security. There are trends and differences in lifestyle and patterns of earnings that can affect benefits.

    For example, some women may be caregivers for many people: spouses, children, and parents. Taking time away from the workplace to care for a newborn child, ailing spouse, or aging parent can have an impact on your future Social Security benefits.

    Also, despite significant strides through the years, women are more likely to earn less over a lifetime than men. In addition, women are less likely than men to be covered by private retirement plans, so they are more dependent on Social Security in their retirement years.

    Did you know that women tend to live on average about five years longer than men? This means more years depending on Social Security and whatever other retirement income or savings they accumulate.

    If a woman’s spouse earns significantly more than she does, it is very possible she will qualify for a larger benefit amount on the spouse’s record than on her own. To learn more, visit our Women’s page at www.socialsecurity.gov/women and read, print, or listen to our publication, What Every Woman Should Know.

    You may also be interested in listening to Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, on National Public Radio as she talks about women and money. Just visit www.npr.org/2014/04/15/301782870/social-security-chief-women-live-longer-so-they-should-save-early.

    To celebrate Women’s Equality Day, learn how Social Security treats men and women equally by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/women.

     

  • 03Sep

    Below is a recent alert from the IRS on 5 easy ways to identify phone scams. Medicare and other health insurance related phone scams have similar elements and can often be spotted by the same 5 tips the IRS provides below. If you or someone you know suspects a Medicare or other health insurance scam, call our Senior Medicare Patrol at 855-613-7080.

    Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls

    The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

    These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

    “These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

    The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

    1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.

    2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

    3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

    4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

    5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

    If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

    • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
    • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
    • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

    Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

    Additional information about tax scams are available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube http://youtu.be/UHlxTX4rTRU?list=PL2A3E7A9BD8A8D41D. and Tumblr http://internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

  • 27Aug

    Navigating the roads of long-term care and ‘terrain’ of long-term care insurance products can be confusing, especially since these products are not standardized like Medicare supplement insurance (known as Medigap). We’ve recently updated our website sections on long term care and our long-term care fact sheet series which provide great resources for: 1) learning about this area of care; 2) how to plan for it financially; 3) long term care options and insurance products; and 4) a whole section on frequently asked questions.

    Below is an answer to a question we received regarding a beneficiary’s situation that may be pertinent to many people who bought a long-term care (LTC) policy when still fairly young and didn’t look too closely at the details of what the policy covers. Now, many years later, when this particular beneficiary is interested in coverage for some LTC services, she’s realizing that it doesn’t cover the type of care she wants. Her policy only covers nursing home care and respite care, but not any home care or community-based care services. She contacted our office to see if we know of any companies in California who sell home care only policies. Bonnie Burns, our Training and Policy Specialist who is an expert and national consumer advocate in long-term care, responds to her question below.

    Answer:

    There don’t appear to be any companies left selling home care only long term care insurance policies in California. In fact, many of the companies selling long-term care insurance have withdrawn from the market, although some are still some left and selling in California. I suggest you contact an agent in your community who has taken the required training to sell long-term care insurance and work with him or her to find a package of benefits that will wrap around what you already have. I agree with your assessment to keep what you already have and supplement it in some way. It doesn’t seem reasonable to forfeit the premiums you have already invested in this policy if it provides at least some benefits for future care.

    It’s important to know that today most long-term care starts at home, and many people never move beyond home care to institutional care.  But, institutional care can be an impoverishing event so having benefits for it is still very necessary.

    One option, depending on the company that issued your previous coverage, is to ask if that company would be willing to upgrade you to a more current policy and give you some premium credit for what you have already paid.  In California, if a company does that and it’s the same company that issued the previous policy they may be required under state law to give you such a credit.  You’d have to pass medical underwriting, but you would have to for a home care only policy anyway if it was available.

    You can go on the insurance department website and look for companies selling in California. Click on sample rates and fill in the information to get a look at what is being sold. You can also contact your nearest Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) for free, local help.  They won’t be able to recommend a company or agent, but they can help with information to help you make a decision.

    For more information, resources and FAQs, see our website section on Long-Term Care.

     

  • 20Aug

    This short infograph demonstrates both visually and statistically some disturbing facts of Americans being overmedicated, so much so that every 19 minutes someone dies of a medication overdoes. While many commonly taken medications are taken as a way to “enhance” people’s lives by allowing people to sleep better, stay awake longer, get more work done, are people’s lives improving? Or in some cases, are these medications masking symptoms and in turn causing more problems? This info graphic shares some revealing data regarding these questions.

    Medicated to Death

    Source: TopRNtoBSN.com

  • 12Aug

    Below is an interview done by Kaiser Health News about a Medicare pilot program called Medicare Care Choices Model. This program would allow some beneficiaries covered under the Medicare hospice benefit with advanced cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and HIV/AIDS to receive both hospice care and life-prolonging treatments. Under current hospice rules, beneficiaries who choose hospice care must basically say “no” to receiving any type of curative care. Also, to qualify for hospice, a beneficiary’s doctor must certify that the patient has 6 months or less to live.

    Medicare Experiment Could Signal Sea Change for Hospice

    by Michelle Andrews

    Diane Meier is the director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, a national organization that aims to increase the number of palliative care programs in hospitals and elsewhere for patients with serious illnesses. Meier is also a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. We spoke about a recently launched pilot program under the health law that allows hospice patients participating in the pilot to continue to receive life-prolonging treatment. This is an edited  version of that conversation.

    Q. There’s a lot of confusion about how hospice care differs from palliative care. Maybe we should start by clearing up what those terms mean.

    A. The short, quick elevator answer is that all hospice care is palliative care – but not all palliative care is hospice. Palliative care is a team-based type of care focused on maximizing the quality of life for people and their caregivers at any stage of illness. It focuses on treating the pain, stresses and symptoms of serious illness. The emphasis is on need, not prognosis or how long you might have to live.

    In contrast, the hospice benefit, which was written into the Medicare statutes about 25 years ago, had a number of limits in it to control spending.

    Diane Meier (Photo courtesy of Mount Sinai Hospital)

    First, two physicians have to certify that the patient will likely be dead in six months if the disease follows its natural course. Second, the patient or family members need to sign a paper giving up regular insurance coverage for disease treatment in order to get access to hospice, a forced either/or choice between life-prolonging treatment and palliative care. It was an attempt to save money. Most people need—and want—both types of treatment.

    But we can’t predict who’s going to die in six months, in part because of the variation in people. We can’t really tell if someone is going to keep motoring along. The other thing is that many people want to keep receiving disease treatment, because it is helping them to get along and keeping up their quality of life. As someone who has counseled many people with serious illnesses, I can tell you it is very painful to tell people they have to sign away their rights to treatment. It’s like hitting a man when they’re down.

    Q. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that the agency is launching the Medicare Care Choices Model, a program created under the health law that allows hospice patients with advanced cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and HIV/AIDS to receive not only hospice care but also curative care. Does this experiment signal a noteworthy change in approach toward caring for dying patients?

    A. I think it does. I think it’s a recognition that this forced choice between palliative care and life-prolonging treatment is irrational.

    Unfortunately the way the new benefit was written is that the only people who can be eligible [for the pilot] are those who would be eligible for hospice, that is, people very likely to be dead within a few months. People tend to be pretty damn sick by the time they become eligible for hospice. I’m not really sure what access to curative care means in that context. If these patients could have been “cured” they wouldn’t be eligible for hospice.

    It’s a misnomer to say they’re going to be cured. There are very few diseases that we cure in U.S.medicine. In most cases what we’re talking about is life-prolonging treatment, and in most cases that’s palliative treatment. It makes people feel better. If you have emphysema and I give you broncodilators and steroids to open up your airways, it will prolong your life, and it will also make you feel better.

    Q. I understand that some hospices say they won’t participate in the new program because the CMS payment rate of $400 per beneficiary per month isn’t enough cover their costs, which include coordinating beneficiaries’ care with curative and other providers, and providing counseling and support services for beneficiaries and their families (curative care services are covered by the regular Medicare program). Is that rate too low to provide the necessary services?

    A. You can do something that’s fairly telephone intensive for $400. You can have staff get training in symptom management and have them talk to family members, which are usually the ones who are calling with questions. The problem is if you have to dispatch a human being to the person’s home. It’s difficult to do that for $400. And when someone calls after hours you often need to do that. It’s really hard to provide 24/7 visiting capacity with that amount of money.

    Remember: These patients are not stable, they are the sickest patients in our health care system. They need a lot of hand holding. Availability and responsiveness are key and  that’s expensive.

    The patients in this demonstration project may be much more complicated to take care of than regular hospice patients. Not only are they dealing with the consequences of disease but with the consequences of treatment, the side effects of chemo, for example. Hospice staff are not accustomed to working with patients who want continued disease treatment.

    I think it’s going to be challenging but I think it will lead to some really creative solutions. Hospice organizations may look to build out a more comprehensive safety net by partnering with other community providers like Meals on Wheels or local aging services or transportation providers. And that would be really good.

    Q. What does the research show about people who receive both hospice or palliative care and life-prolonging treatment?

    A. There are now several studies that show that patients who receive both palliative care and life-prolonging care actually live longer than those who receive life-prolonging treatment alone.It makes sense. People aren’t in excruciating pain, they’re not depressed, their families feel confident in their ability to care for their loved one. And if, very importantly, people are able to avoid the very real risks of hospitals, it’s no surprise that they live longer.

    They’re not getting less life-prolonging treatment with palliative care, they’re having less crisis. They reduce emergency care use because they don’t need it and that saves money.

    If palliative care were a drug, I’d be rich.

    Q. What could that mean for this new CMS pilot program?

    A. Let’s say hospices can do this for $400. Think about the pressure to scale that up to people whose prognosis is two years or three years or even longer.

    So I can see why CMS is being really cautious. It’s going to be important to demonstrate that if you take people and do this, that it won’t break the bank. My prediction is that it will actually be less expensive to provide both approaches at the same time precisely because it will lead to less need for costly emergency and crisis care.

    Q. What’s next on the horizon for palliative care?

    A. We’ve gotten pretty far with integrating palliative care into hospitals. More than 60 percent of hospitals with more than 50 beds nationwide have programs. But most people are living at home. Right now it’s very hard to access palliative care if you’re not on hospice or in the hospital. In the next 10 years, we need to integrate palliative care into home care, cancer center care, dialysis units, nursing homes and other settings.

  • 04Aug

    Yes, it’s the first full week in August and that means it’s also National Simplify Your Life week. Oftentimes, busy lives, full work schedules and long to-do lists, along with a multi-tude of technologies to help us get all these tasks organized and done, are a common theme for many. And while we may be up to great things and doing important service in the world, sometimes the complexities of life can feel burdensome, heavy and lead to stress and unhappiness. Simplifying our lives in a variety of ways can help bring back that natural element of levity, freedom, joy and exuberance that is always a part of our true inner nature. While there are many ways to simplify, one way to easily peal away from the hold of busy-ness and complexities and tap into our inner nature is to step outside.

    Nature is one of our greatest assets. Across the ages, we have read, known of many great poets, writers, artists, teachers, inventors that have gone out into nature for inspiration, clarity, and renewal. There is a reason why sages from spiritual traditions around the globe all come from the mountains to share their teachings. John Muir, a beloved writer and father of our National Park system shares that “the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” He also says that “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to pray in and play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

    A hiker sits atop Trolltunga, or "troll's tongue," a famous rock formation in southwestern Norway. (Photo: Shutterstock)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In Norway, the 2nd happiest country on the planet according to UN rankings (U.S. is ranked 17th), they have a particular “simple” philosophy that greatly enhances their happiness and wellbeing. That is “friluftsliv”…while it may be a mouthful, and is not so easily translated into English, it literally means “free air life”. It refers to an uplifting ambience that arises from our outdoor dynamic relationship and enchantment with nature. Some Norwegians say this word describes a way of life that is spent exploring and appreciating nature. Their country’s population is small and their wild lands and mountains are all surrounding. Nature and ‘friluftsliv’, time exploring and appreciating nature,  is an integral part of people’s life in that country. It is a philosophy, a way of being that doesn’t require any technology or to-do lists, but instead is a willingness, a joyful curiosity and love of stepping outdoors to step into nature and into our inner nature. John Muir eloquently points to this when he says, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

    So, from this year forward, let’s take the invitation of “National Simplify Your Life” week and step outdoors! This is one, easy, time-tested way to recover our natural joy and freeness and to remember and celebrate our integral connection to our greatest asset, Nature.

     

    This article was inspired, in part, by the article, How ‘Friluftsliv’ Can Help You Reconnect with Nature.

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