Seniors Margrit Kipfer, left, and Nancy Howell participate in Susan Shoemaker’s Aging Well exercise class May 13. Many older residents surveyed recently said they would need more housing options to stay in the Yampa Valley long term.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Seniors Margrit Kipfer, left, and Nancy Howell participate in Susan Shoemaker’s Aging Well exercise class May 13. Many older residents surveyed recently said they would need more housing options to stay in the Yampa Valley long term.

Gap in Steamboat senior housing revealed

More options necessary to keep older segment of population in Steamboat

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To see the housing and supportive services study, go to this site and click on the “Reports on Local Housing and Services” link at the bottom right corner of the page.

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Gene Cook gives his leg a stretch during Susan Shoemaker’s Aging Well exercise class May 13. One senior surveyed by the Over The Hill Gang said he or she wanted to stay active as long as possible in the Steamboat area.

— A recent Over The Hill Gang survey led the group’s leaders to commission a study to learn what housing and supportive services are available for senior citizens in Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

Over The Hill Gang member Bill Dring, who conducted the study, said it also sought to identify what housing and supportive services are planned for Steamboat and what options are available in other communities across the country.

According to the survey conducted in October, to which 20 percent of the group’s 435 members responded, 80 percent indicated they would or possibly would seek supportive housing in Steamboat, and 85 percent would or probably would seek supportive services.

A state unit on aging study from the Division of Aging and Adult Service of the Colorado Department of Human Services indicated that about 2,700 of the county’s nearly 24,000 residents, or more than 11 percent, were at least 60 years old.

The population of adults 65 and older is projected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2015, Donna Hackley, director of Wellness and Aging Services for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, said in an e-mail.

“We need to continue to create opportunities that fully integrate older adults into our community and promote healthy aging,” she said.

Existing options

Dring said the Over The Hill Gang study indicated a lack of commitment to staying in the area from the respondents, a majority of whom are 60 to 69 years old.

“Steamboat appeals to us because of the abundance of outdoor activities, as well as the many ‘older’ folks that are engaged in them,” a respondent wrote in the comment section at the end of the survey. “When we are no longer able to enjoy such activities, we are uncertain of Steamboat’s continuing appeal, relative to other choices.”

The study stated that the Routt County Foundation for Senior Citizens built, owns and manages three low-income independent living complexes with 61 units for seniors 62 and older. They are: Selby Apartments on Rollingstone Drive, Mountain View Apartments at Seventh and Pine streets, and Aspen View Apartments in Oak Creek.

Steamboat’s only dependent-care facility is the Doak Walker Care Center. The Doak, a nearly 27,000-square-foot facility, accommodates 59 residents in 39 rooms.

Dring said there are adequate independent housing options for senior citizens, and he called the Doak “excellent.”

“Other than that, there is a very large gap,” Dring said.

He said that gap was assisted living. There is no such facility in Steamboat. Dring mentioned The Haven Assisted Living Facility in Hayden but said its proximity wasn’t ideal for Steamboat’s seniors.

Many of the survey’s respondents wrote in the comments section that to stay in Steamboat, they would need additional options.

One of the respondents said he or she would stay in Steamboat only if the community committed to its aging population by offering a facility that included indoor fitness opportunities. Others said a facility that included health care options, a fitness center, social gathering spaces and transportation services was needed.

“Steamboat needs to think outside the box,” one person wrote. “We will stay and continue to build a senior community if we are well-supported and many options are available for social and recreational contacts once we can no longer ski, snowshoe, hike, etc. We are all active, and we all want to continue at every and any level possible.”

Closing the gap

During the study, which was completed in March, Dring said he learned about a plan to develop an assisted-living facility in Steamboat.

A nonprofit, Colorado Senior Residences, was created to work with Pearl Senior Living, of Denver, to develop a senior living community.

Yampa Valley Medical Center CEO Karl Gills, who is the chairman of the board for Colorado Senior Residences, said the assisted living gap has existed in Steamboat for some time.

“It’s something we’ve really been looking at facilitating

since 2008,” Gills said. “It’s just that now all the pieces are coming together. The surveys, research and data certainly validates the need in this part of the state for something like this.”

Gills said the 142-unit facility would include skilled nursing, independent living, assisted living and a memory/Alzheimer’s unit. He said the Doak would move to the facility planned on about 6 acres east of Casey’s Pond.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for the summer, pending project approvals, with opening in late 2012 or early 2013, Gills said.

In addition to limited housing options, Hackley, of the VNA, said other challenges for seniors in Steamboat included access to services and transportation. But she said the VNA’s Aging Well program does provide fitness and wellness programs. She said the VNA also provides home health care assistance services.

Laura Schmidt, the executive director of the Routt County Council on Aging, said the council works with the Aging Well program to provide services for area seniors. She said they’re working to develop a central clearinghouse to provide information for seniors moving to the area.

Staying in Steamboat

Schmidt said she’s not aware of any program aimed at retaining or attracting senior citizens to live in the county. But she said seniors are a valuable segment of the community. Schmidt said they’re informed and interested in local issues.

“In a lot of ways, I think they’re more involved in politics and community issues and more inclined to get involved than younger folks,” she said. “I don’t know if the community understands how valuable they are.”

Dring said many members of the Over The Hill Gang would be transitioning to assisted-living or possibly dependent-care facilities in the coming years. He said the study was conducted to see whether that was possible in Steamboat.

“We decided the better informed we were, the better decisions we could make,” he said.

Dring has been working with Jackie Kuusinen, a reference associate librarian at Bud Werner Memorial Library, to compile the survey to display for the public. Kuusinen said the study likely would be ready for public viewing in July.

But the study can be viewed online. Go to www.yampavalley.info/centers/recreation/organizations/over_the_hill_gang and click on the “Reports on Local Housing and Services” link at the bottom right corner of the page.

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