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Senior survey points to increased need for care

CAITLIN ROW
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Often thought of as a young peoples’ playground, Summit County is growing increasingly attractive to retirees. Results from the 2009 Summit County Senior Survey point to an expanding population of seniors in the community who need better health-care options ” and community leaders are taking note.

When survey results were brought to Dillon’s town council at last week’s work session, particular attention was paid because the town, a local sponsor of the survey, could be significantly impacted by its findings.

According to the survey, Dillon contains the densest population of people over age 75 in the county. The town also recently committed to an urban renewal project focused on rejuvenating its town center, with a senior-centered community project possibly among the options.

A lack of short-term, long-term and assisted care facilities in Summit County spurred local seniors to take charge by hiring Venturoni Surveys and Research to poll the county about senior needs.

“What do we do with all the seniors that are coming?” said Dennis Nemura of the Summit County Seniors. “The county is not going to have money to do this. The seniors want to take an active role in addressing these issues. I’m excited to get things rolling.”

The senior survey is a long-term project, and it’s the result of work beginning in 1996, Nemura said.

But Nemura said there’s no hurry for anyone to pair up with a developer, while adding that the county needs to have all the information before it makes a commitment. Even so, he also said more senior-care options can’t wait even 10 years.

And health professionals in Summit County also support future development of senior care facilities.

“There’s a big need for better senior care,” said Paul Chodkowski, chief executive officer at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. “The challenge is the economics of it.”

St. Anthony Summit was also a sponsor of the study, and Chodkowski said he expects a partnership if some sort of senior care center is built.

“More seniors are moving here to this area,” said Jodee Trainor, the chief nursing officer at St. Anthony Summit. “They’re going to want to retire here because they’re healthy, but they’re going to need a different type of care in the future.”

According to Trainor, she’s starting to see a bigger focus on elderly care in the nursing profession, especially for frail elders.

“They have very different needs,” she said.

There’s more to the picture than just health-care concerns, though. Don Parsons, a Dillon councilman, said that the poor economy may have a significant impact on retirees and that an overall level of wealth will likely go down ” an important consideration when deciding on future developments.

The 2009 Summit County Senior Survey questioned both full-time and second-home owners across the county over the age of 45. The study provided feedback on preference and demand for senior needs and housing options in Summit County.

According to Linda Venturoni of Venturoni Surveys and Research, results point to a community need for assisted living, senior housing and rehabilitation facilities. In survey responses, many people said they’d use a short-term care center in Summit Count.

“We have a very independent minded group here that will stay in their own homes as long as possible,” Venturoni said.

Venturoni also pointed out in her presentation in Dillon last week that building a senior community can be used as a development tool. Incomes of retirees come as transfer payments, pensions and other unearned income and can help support local businesses. Tax yields could also increase, due to a higher level of business from senior spending.

Retirees spending money on goods and services has a stabilizing effect on an economy, Venturoni said. They also have less strain on some government services, since they don’t have kids in school and aren’t likely to get arrested.

And while many Summit County seniors are highly active and well-off, that’s not always the case, Venturoni said.

“There’s a myth that seniors leave when they can’t ski or that they’re all healthy or wealthy,” she said.

But as active seniors age in the county, better health services could encourage more people to stay in the county for life, she added.

Frisco, Silverthorne and Summit County were also sponsors of the survey, along with the Summit County Seniors.

To view detailed results of the senior survey, visit http://www.surveyco.org/Summit.html.

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.


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