As shown in the graph above, the senior population from 2010-2020 in Summit County will increase dramatically. Where will all these seniors live? We are fortunate to have an outstanding and active Summit County Community and Senior Center. The senior center offers Monday night dinners, Tuesday, Thursday lunches, Meals on Wheels, bridge, book club, yoga, Mah Jongg, various games once a week, hiking at different levels, biking, day trips, line dancing, plus GALS (Golden Adventurous Ladies of the Summit), which meets at private homes or happy hour establishments. These are all wonderful social activities, but what happens when one is ready to sell their home and downsize or in need of an assisted-living facility?
Summit County is one of the few counties in Colorado that does not have senior housing. A number of housing studies support the fact that there is a tremendous need for senior housing in Summit County. The studies include the following:
2001 Assisted Living Feasibility Study completed by the Summit Housing Authority
2005 Summit County Senior Citizens Needs Assessment
2009 Summit County Senior Housing Option Study
The 2005 study was paid for by the Summit County Seniors and the 2009 study was covered by a group of organizations in the county including: Summit County Seniors, The Summit Foundation, Summit County Realtors, Saint Anthony’s Hospital, NWCCOG, Summit County, plus the towns of Silverthorne, Frisco and Dillon. All of these studies showed a tremendous need for senior housing.
The Board of County Commissioners is in agreement that a Continuum of Care Campus is the ideal solution. The Continuum of Care Campus would include independent living, assisted living and memory care, with a skilled nursing facility as the final portion of the campus. The Senior Housing Task Force has also met with the Faith Community of Summit County, representatives of St. Anthony’s Hospital and town representatives, making them aware of this project. This effort is well supported by the residents of Summit County.
The Summit County Senior Survey of 2009 currently found that the vast majority, 70 percent of seniors ages 65-74 and 87 percent of seniors 75 or over already living in Summit County plan to stay in Summit County for their retirement years. This finding points to a critical need for senior housing and services when combined with dramatic increases in Summit County’s 60 plus population shown above in the “Summit County Population Growth.”
The Senior Center Board endorsed unanimously the vision and mission statements of the Senior Housing Task Force as outlined below at their last meeting:
Vision: A residential community for seniors and disabled adults that provide a continuum of care, including health and support services, which promotes the ability to remain in Summit County for a lifetime.
Mission: To plan and participate in the development of independent living units, followed by assisted living units and secure memory care units in Summit County in the very near future.
When seniors leave Summit County they take their assets with them. Seniors are important to our local economy. As seniors age, they find that they cannot do everything they did when they were younger. Seniors employ local contractors to help make their lives easier. The local doctor, dentist, painter, hairdresser, landscape designer, carpenter, painter, snowplower, window cleaner, dog walker, nursing assistant, etc., are needed to assist seniors as they age. Approximately $28 million per year in Summit County could be lost in potential income of residents who leave. Many of these residents would rather stay if expanded senior living opportunities were developed, according to a report written by a master student of economics at Colorado State University.
A number of friends that I knew when I first arrived in Summit County in 2005 have moved to Denver or other places because they had no choice. We want our seniors to have choices. We do not want seniors to think that Summit County has no need for them. Seniors add tremendously to the vitality of a community. They volunteer their time in schools, Meals on Wheels programs, church work, local events and just giving us knowledge from their past. The Board of County Commissioners is definitely onboard with this project, and I hope the community is also in agreement. The Senior Task Force is ready to go forward with the Affordable Housing Application once land is available. Let’s make this happen as soon as possible!