Mount Rainier requiring reservations to enter

(Pictured: The Ashford entrance to Mount Rainier National Park).

Depending on the time of day and year, getting into Mount Rainier National Park now requires a reservation.

The timed-entry reservations, as park officials are calling them, will be necessary from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Paradise (south) entrance via Ashford from May 24 to Sept. 2 and from July 4 to Sept. 2 at the Sunrise (northeast) entrance via Enumclaw. Standard entrance fees will apply.

The park has experienced about a 40 percent increase in visits over the last 10 years, leading to overcrowding during the summer and damage to fragile ecosystems, according to officials. So timed entries during the prime, busiest hours will be tried in the hope of reducing traffic congestion and overuse of trails, particularly in heavily visited areas such as Paradise.

Entering before 7 a.m. or after 3 p.m. doesn’t require a timed reservation. The park is open 24 hours a day. And some parts of the park don’t require a timed reservation at any time. They include:

Park entrance fees are $15 for pedestrians or bicyclists, $25 for motorcycles, $30 for private vehicles (cars and trucks), and $55 for an annual pass.

Adults 62 or older can buy annual passes for $20 or lifetime passes for $80.

Mount Rainier isn’t the only national park with timed entries or entry reservations. Others include Rocky Mountain in Colorado, Glacier in Montana, Arches in Utah, and Yosemite in California.

Regrets? They have a few

By Kayla Hopkins

We all have regrets. But when it comes to reflecting on their life and professional career, no collective of people may have better insight than retirees. A quarter of retired Americans say they have regrets now that they’ve retired, which can be a learning lesson for younger Americans who still have many professional working years left.

In a new study by MedicareFAQ, a Medicare learning resource center hosted by Elite Insurance Partners, more than 560 retired Americans were surveyed to understand those regrets better and to see what advice they can offer to younger generations.

One of the biggest considerations in retirement is finances. Even once you’ve retired, there’s no guarantee you’ll feel financially secure. In fact, 59 percent of retirees have financial concerns about their retirement, and 46 percent have saved enough money for a comfortable retirement. Eighty-six percent wish they had saved more before retiring, and 60 percent didn’t start investing in their retirement funds early enough. That’s a clear indication that it’s never too early to start saving for retirement, and for most retirees, that’s their biggest piece of advice.

Other advice regarding retirement includes prioritizing experiences over material possessions and finding a fulfilling work-life balance.

Some retirees regret not prioritizing their health. That can look different depending on one’s situation. For some, it means staying active, following a fad diet, or reducing the amount of unhealthy food you eat. For others, it means prioritizing your healthcare. After you retire, healthcare becomes an even more essential part of your daily routine.

Not having a good work-life balance, not traveling enough, and not spending enough time with friends and family are major regrets throughout retirement.

One-tenth of retirees delayed their retirement because they simply enjoyed working. Other reasons included not having enough money saved or a delayed Social Security payout.

Nearly 1 in 4 retirees struggle to find purpose and fulfillment in retirement. The transition from working full-time to being retired can be tough, and 22 percent say this transition was harder than they anticipated.

One thing that may help with the transition, and also help those struggling to find a purpose, may be volunteering or working a part-time job. Currently, 18 percent of retirees volunteer, and 1 in 4 plan to continue working. The vast majority (93 percent) of retirees say retirement has given them the ability to enjoy things they didn’t have time for while working full-time, like new hobbies.

Although they may have regretted not keeping health top of mind when they were younger, retirees are cooking healthier meals, going to the doctor when they think they need to, reviewing their health coverage during enrollment periods, dedicating time to exercise, and more active in general.

Reflecting upon careers, family, travels

In their careers, 38 percent have regrets and 35 percent wish they’d achieved better work-life balance.

One in 10 say they’ve had a “second-act” career, which is a major career change that occurs after retirement.

When it comes to family, 56 percent say they’re able to spend more quality time with their loved ones now that they’ve retired.

Of retired Americans who don’t have children, about 1 in 4 wish they had.

Travel isn’t a luxury everyone can afford, but according 89 percent of retirees, it’s an important part of life. 58 percent wish they’d traveled more when they were younger.

What advice would retirees give to themselves? The biggest thing is to prioritize financial planning and savings. Other self-advice includes taking health seriously, traveling more, focusing on personal growth and happiness, and not living too far beyond your financial means.

When it comes to the age at which they were happiest, retirees say the magic year was 41. Sixty-two percent say age doesn’t limit new life experiences. And 72 percent feel younger than their current age.

Source: MedicareFAQ.com

Health department has its first female African American leader

Chantell Harmon Reed, who has had similar roles in Oregon and Louisiana, is the new director of public health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Reed took over March 18 after her appointment was confirmed by the Pierce County Council and Tacoma City Council, completing a hiring process that put an African American woman at the top of the department for the first time in its 51-year history.

“I’m thrilled to be stepping into this role,” said Reed. “This community and department are already doing great things. We’ll bring renewed energy to best serve the public health needs of the people of Pierce County.”

Reed was most recently the deputy director of public health for the Multnomah County Health Department in Oregon. Before that, she was deputy director for the New Orleans Health Department. Among other things, Reed helped close healthcare disparity gaps through improved maternal and infant mortality rates and the creation of a doula workforce development program.

Reed, one of three finalists for the Tacoma-Pierce job, was interviewed and appointed by County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Mayor Victoria Woodards.The county and city governments oversee the Health Department.

Reed’s “community-led approaches and unwavering commitment to equity solidified her as the standout candidate. This heralds a new era of progress for our community’s health,” said Catherine Ushka, chairwoman of the Health Board, which was involved in recruitment of candidates.

Thirty-three people applied for the position. Of those, a little more than half were either from out of state, male, or non-white.

COMMENTARY: New legislation pays off in wallet, long-term care, and nutrition

By Cathy MacCaul

In a flurry of activity during the two-month legislative session, Washington lawmakers introduced almost 1,200 bills. Fortunately, AARP Washington lobbied fiercely for a fraction of those, tracking fifteen bills across the House and Senate. While we didn’t move all the legislation that we had hoped, our priority bills made it past the finish line. The governor has signed or approved bills creating an automatic savings program for Washington workers, eliminating surprise billing for ambulance services, re-introducing co-living to the state, expanding portability for the state’s long-term care insurance programs, and securing funding for critical nutrition programs. 

  • Research by Pew Charitable Trust finds that having access to payroll deductions makes people 15 times more likely to save and 20 times more likely if it is automatic. On March 28, Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation to create a new automatic savings program. It will help the 43 percent of Washington’s private-sector employees who can’t save for retirement from their regular paycheck. Washington Saves is a voluntary program that allows workers to contribute directly from their paychecks to a retirement account, regardless of who they work for. They would always control their contribution level and could opt-out any time. These accounts are also portable, meaning workers can continue saving even if they change jobs or move out of state.
  • A 2023 study by the state insurance commissioner found that ambulance rides are the only emergency service for which consumers are at risk for surprise billing. On average, the part of the ambulance bill patients were responsible for was more than $500 for emergency trips and more than $1,000 for non-emergency service. In a medical crisis, no one should worry about whether their insurance will cover the cost of the ambulance. With the new legislation, Washingtonians will be protected from charges for out-of-network healthcare services by prohibiting surprise billing for ground ambulance services.
  • AARP state offices nationwide have championed legislation for over a decade to create more affordable housing options. With the passage of House Bill 1998, a once-common housing option is revived by setting standards to legalize co-living homes statewide. Co-living homes—think micro-apartments, often with a kitchenette and access to larger shared kitchens and community spaces—are a low-cost option that disappeared over the last decade due to restricted zoning laws. Co-living homes are desirable for people in a variety of stages of work and life, including older adults looking to downsize.
  • We also celebrate a significant change to Washington’s long-term care benefit program. A path to portability has been on our to-do list since the legislation initially passed in 2019. In 2022, we allowed those near retirement to access 10 percent of the set benefit of $36,500 for each year they worked before retirement. With the passage of House Bill 2467, we have added portability to WA Cares. Washington workers can access benefits through the state’s new long-term care insurance program, WA Cares Fund, even if they leave the state for a new job or to retire.
  • Rounding out our priority legislation, AARP pushed legislators to extend funding for Washington’s Area Agency on Aging nutrition programs, which were on the brink of losing funding that helps them serve nearly 1.4 million meals for 18,686 seniors and people with disabilities. With rising food prices, healthcare expenses, prescription drugs, and other necessities, too many families struggle to pay bills and have healthy food to eat. While we didn’t get as much money as we hoped and could only extend funding for one year, these programs will continue to provide hot meals at community sites, senior center food pantries, mobile food pantries, meals on wheels, and other nutrition services.

Amidst the fast-paced 2024 session, AARP Washington’s focused efforts have yielded significant victories for residents across the state. As we celebrate these milestones, we’re energized to continue advocating for policies that promote prosperity and security for all Washingtonians.

Cathy MacCaul is AARP Washington’s advocacy director.