Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Routt County residents nearing retirement age jumped 95 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Referred to as the "age wave crisis," the rapid jump in aging baby boomers is happening across the United States, and communities are responding with new strategies for senior care.
The problem is that most of those efforts are in urban areas, where high population densities and resources allow for more preventative and socially based systems of care.
Rural communities have faced more roadblocks.
"In these sparsely populated regions like Northwest Colorado, people have thrown up their hands and relied on traditional institutions that react to people becoming frail," said Dace Kramer, "aging well" program coordinator with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
The VNA is working to develop one of the first rural models of care that attend to seniors' mental and physical well-being by integrating them into the community and improving their aging environment.
To begin exploring challenges and solutions, the VNA and The Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley have invited national experts from a variety of aging fields to a Rural Forum on Aging this week.
"This is going to be a gathering of the some of the best minds on health and aging from around the country," Kramer said.
The VNA's aging well concept began to take shape with the agency's plans to acquire The Haven Assisted Living Center in Hayden.
VNA officials envisioned the facility as a platform for improving senior services throughout the Yampa Valley.
After the VNA acquires The Haven, the organization plans to expand the center with a 2,800-square foot community room. The space will host existing senior activities as well as educational programs that will appeal to seniors and other residents.
Based on research, "seniors have shown to be healthier mentally and physically if they remain connected to the community and remain aging in place," Kramer said.
In addition to engaging seniors in the community, other aspects of the aging well model will focus on improved transportation for seniors who want to remain at home as well as support for families and caregivers.
In the process of requesting grants and support for the Haven acquisition and expansion, the VNA's aging well vision has attracted attention from national organizations including the American Association of Retired Per--sons.
Experts and people involved in the aging fields are intrigued by the VNA's commitment to the rural aging care model, which could help set a precedence for improved systems of care in other rural areas, Kramer said.
The forum, to be held Wednesday through Friday, will not be open to the public.
For more information ab----out the aging well program or to comment about needs and challenges facing seniors in the Yampa Valley, call 879-1632.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org