Just like around the nation Pitkin County’s population of seniors is expected to grow dramatically over the coming years. Already, 20 percent of the people living here are age 60 and older. By 2030, that group is expected to grow by 75 percent. The county is preparing by investigating what’s needed to accommodate this growing demographic. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.
On Tuesday, seniors from around Pitkin County joined elected leaders and other community members in Aspen for a presentation on aging. Curt Strand was among the participants.
"I live in Snowmass and, I was in Snowmass when it opened in 1968. I went there to ski and I’m still skiing, but I’m 93 so I ski a little more slowly!"
Strand says he’d like to see improved communication about what’s available for seniors.
"There’s so much being done for seniors in this community, as you would expect in a place like Aspen. The only problem, if I can think of one, is to make sure the word gets around so that every senior knows who he or she can call to get information."
Lucky for him, access to information and resources is highlighted in the County’s “Aging Well Initiative.”
"The initiative is aiming to have the tools, resources, programs, services, connections available for people as they age in Pitkin County," says Marty Aimes.
She's the Director of Pitkin County Senior Services. For about a year, her department has worked with the non-profit Executive Service Corps to develop a plan for seniors. They gathered input from the public and formed work groups that looked at things like physical and mental health and social and civic engagement. The idea is to improve and expand services as needed.
"In some cases, some of these things are already being done quite well in our community and might need expansion just because of the sheer numbers. But, in some cases this an opportunity for professionals, service providers and individuals in the community who maybe have had a dream about what they’d like to do better and this sort of puts the spotlight on it," says Aimes.
Already, lots of efforts, or “action steps," are underway. City and County staff are taking an inventory of senior-friendly businesses and may provide incentives for improved safety and access. And, Pitkin County’s Emergency Communications staff will train high school students to help sign seniors up for alerts on their cell phones. Another effort updates community gardens so there’s wheelchair accessibility.
"I think connection is a lot of what I wanted as a person getting older," says Susan Carter.
She lives in Aspen and sat on a work group that helped with the initiative. With age, she says maintaining a sense of community is challenging.
"When you get to be older lots of things kind of fall away as you lose your friends and maybe your health, so that was important to me."
The initiative considers Susan’s concerns. It highlights increased connection for seniors through things like community engagement and life-long learning.
Marty Aimes with Pitkin County Senior services says she’s noticing an increase already in the number of older adults using their programs. So, she says, the release of the Aging Well Initiative is timely.
"I think the ultimate goal is that Pitkin County is a place that people can choose to stay as long as they want, and can thrive."