Summit seniors: It’s high time the county took their housing and care needs seriously |

Summit seniors: It’s high time the county took their housing and care needs seriously

Senior citizens play in a bridge tournament at the Summit County Community and Senior Center, Jan. 2017 in Frisco. A senior rights group is pushing for a new housing needs assessment for seniors as the elderly population continues to grow.
Hugh Carey /

Summit has an aging population that wants to thrive in the county. As senior Summit citizens grow older, they need more services. The county has known about the issue for a long time, but competing interests have left plans for substantive care for elderly Summit residents on the drawing board.

A group of local Summit seniors is now pushing for an updated assessment of senior needs in the county to refresh data and impress the need for more infrastructure and services in the county to serve its growing number of residents over the age of 65.

Andy Searls and Pam Piper are board members of the local group Staying in Summit. The organization is a nonprofit advocating for more housing and care facilities for assisted living, as well as memory care, skilled nursing and other services that allow seniors and adults with disabilities to stay and live in the place they love.

Searls said that the county has not kept up with the number of baby boomers who are getting on in years, and a new survey is needed to confirm the extent of the problem. A 2011 survey showed Summit County had one of the fastest growing 65 and over populations in the country.

“We don’t have an idea of the full spectrum of what’s needed for Summit’s elder adults and adults with disabilities,” Searls said. “We want to update that survey and be able to take something tangible to our county commissioners and show here’s what we found. People need a safe place to be if they are determined to age in a place like Summit, but they don’t have services they require.”

Plans for a senior living or assisted living facility have been floated before. In 2015, the county started drawing up plans for a senior living facility on the 4.5-acre “Hillside Parcel” in Frisco. However, the plan was shelved for cost and logistical reasons.

But Searls said that the problem won’t just go away because one possible solution fell through. Regardless of infirmity, health or finances, many Summit seniors are here to stay.

“Look at all of the shops on Frisco Main Street,” Searls said. “Many of those owners have been here for decades. They don’t want to leave, even if they become grandparents. They don’t have any other options. A lot of them say, ‘The only way I leave here is in a pine box.’”

Searls added that the senior community in Summit is a relatively active bunch trying to make the most of the twilight of their lives at 9,000 feet. And she says they’re not asking for much to make that possible.

“We’re not looking to build something for 5,000 people,” Searls said. “We would need space for about 35 to 40 people. It’s a smaller group, a group of seniors that really add a tremendous amount to the community.”

Staying in Summit is looking at various models to follow for a senior living facility or complex, including the Castle Peaks senior care community in Eagle, as well as proposed “Green House” homes, which look and feel more like a typical home but with a permanent staff that takes care of the tenants.

While Searls understands the competing housing demands in Summit, especially for workforce housing, she said it’s past time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. To that end, Searls encourages seniors to share their stories about living in Summit, including their experiences and hardships, to raise awareness in the community of how significant the problem is.

Searls also wants the community to know that Staying in Summit is also looking for three new members on its nine-person board. The organization is especially in need of a treasurer. To find out more about Staying in Summit or applying to be a board member, visit

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