A $1.5 million endowment for geriatric medicine is behind the launch of programs aimed at serving senior citizens in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, and Friday's all-day senior symposium at the Hotel Jerome is only the first step.
Various experts from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Division of Geriatric Medicine, are among the speakers at Friday's event, and area seniors have taken notice, according to Kris Marsh, president and CEO of the Aspen Valley Foundation.
The foundation has organized the symposium in cooperation with Pitkin County Senior Services and sponsorship from the Louis and Harold Price Foundation.
"People are calling and saying 'thank you for doing this,'" said Marsh, who anticipates attendance could hit 200 or more.
Perhaps she shouldn't be surprised. When organizers began preparing for the forum, they looked at Pitkin County's voter registration list and found 3,900 individuals over age 60 on it.
"That's a big number," Marsh said. "That was an indicator right there. I had no idea."
The symposium coincides with efforts to build a continuing-care retirement community for seniors in Basalt, but it's made possible by the endowment from the Price Foundation. It will fund a series of educational programs for seniors, their families and caregivers that bring geriatric specialists to the valley. Ultimately, Aspen Valley Foundation hopes to recruit a medical director for the continuing-care facility it intends to build on land near Basalt High School. The development proposal is now under review by the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and the project will be the focus of an update during the symposium.
Friday's event is free, and includes a complimentary continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m., a noon lunch and a cocktail reception at 5 p.m.
The schedule of speakers begins with a welcome from Marsh and a 9:15 a.m. presentation by Marty Ames, county director of Senior Services, offering demographics and insights into the local senior population. An update on the continuing-care retirement community begins at 9:45 a.m., followed by the 11:15 a.m. keynote address - an "Introduction to Geriatrics" by Dr. Robert Schwartz, head of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the university.
The afternoon session includes: "Cognitive Impairment: Facts and Fiction" by Dr. Kerry Hildreth at 1 p.m., "Depression: What to Look For" by Dr. Jeff Wallace at 2 p.m.; "Medications: What to Discuss With Your Doctor" by Sunny Linnebur, associate professor in the university Department of Clinical Pharmacy, at 3 p.m.; and "Exercise: Where to Place Your Focus" by Dr. Catherine Jankowski at 4 p.m.
Don't expect academic lectures, though, Marsh said.
"It's not talking heads --it's really interactive," she said.
The program will be followed by other educational sessions the Aspen Valley Foundation hopes to organize every month or every couple of months.
Though Friday's symposium is free, attendees are asked to register by calling 970-544-1298.