VNA on its way toward goal

Hayden's Haven project seeking national attention

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About a year ago, the North--west Colorado Visiting Nurse Association set out to acquire The Haven Senior Assisted Living Center in Hayden.

VNA officials saw the project as way to expand and improve senior services in the Yampa Valley. They didn't realize how innovative their ideas were.

The project has garnered significant financial support and is receiving national attention from organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons.

"What ultimately is happening, is we are trying to create more of a culture shift for our elderly in creating a movement for seniors to be more contributory and valuable," VNA Executive Director Sue Birch said. "We want them here as part of our legacy and what the community and region is all about.

"I guess we really touched on a movement (that) the AARP and others are watching."

As planned, The Haven project involves an acquisition phase and an expansion phase.

The VNA is more than halfway to its acquisition goal and is kicking off a public campaign this month to raise the remaining $300,000.

The organization also has raised half the funds needed to build a 2,800-square-foot community room at The Haven.

Recent grants for the project include $50,000 from the Kettering Foundation and a $500,000 Energy and Mineral Impact grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Large grants from the Gates Family Foundation, Adolph Coors Foundation and Caring for Colorado Foundation are pending.

Through The Haven, the VNA plans to develop a "livable community model," a more social approach to care than the traditional medical model, Birch said.

For example, the planned community room at The Haven will help integrate seniors with other generations of residents through classes and activities.

The VNA hopes to develop partnerships with other nonprofit organizations in the valley to provide educational opportunities at The Haven that will interest people of all ages.

The VNA plans to expand the concept by providing support for families and caregivers and transportation solutions for seniors who choose to remain at home.

The ultimate goal is to enable seniors to live out their time in a healthy, productive way, Birch said.

Although the "aging well" concept isn't new, it is rare in rural areas, and that has been the basis of interest and support for the project, she said.

"Everybody that we have contacted has said, 'Wow, we love this, and we are pleased you are stepping up at a rural level,'" Birch said.

The VNA isn't the only organization in the Yampa Valley looking at ways to improve senior care.

The Doak Walker Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Steamboat Springs, was honored in April by the Eden Alternative, a national organization that encourages a holistic approach to elderly care.

Doak Walker staff has worked to stimulate residents' nurturing skills by providing them with interaction with children and animals. Residents also avoid boredom and loneliness by participating in multiple activities, including music and fitness programs, baking and regular massages.

The VNA will continue its efforts toward an "aging well" model with a community outreach campaign that will include presentations to service clubs and organizations.

There also will be educational meetings about the "aging well" concept at VNA sites in Steamboat, Craig and at The Haven.

The VNA is looking for people interested in participating in presentations or hosting additional educational gatherings. Call 879-1632

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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