Valley Life for All: Redefining the perception of challenge among our elderly population
Special to the Post Independent
Editor’s note: The Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, publishes a monthly series about fostering inclusion. We will be exploring the myriad of challenges that affect the older adult population in our mountain communities.
Depending on the society one lives in, the elderly population can be seen as wise and honored family members or they’re seen as a burden to society and a stress on the health system. But if we choose to get to know them better, we’ll find a population in our mountain towns that has a rich history, amazing stories of challenges and victories, and that has a wealth of resources and at the same time a great lack of them.
The best way to introduce our elderly population is to begin with the foundation of what resources are available to older adults.
There are generally five programs counties provide: transportation, meal programs, nutrition, information and referral, health and wellness programs, and some offer support groups. We’ll be exploring these issues and more throughout our series.
Judy Martin, manager of senior services in the Garfield County Human Services Department, is so busy administering daily senior resources, she can barely catch her breath. She affirms the wealth of services for older adults while admitting there’s a need for more.
“Our county has spent of a lot of time to build up our senior services, but do we have enough? Of course not, because of the high costs,” she says. Her department has three staff members including herself and a part-time nurse/nutritionist, who hustle to and from communities to serve a growing senior population.
Eagle and Garfield counties are seeing some of the highest population growth in this category in Colorado, according to the Denver Post (2018) and the Steamboat Gazette (2018). In Pitkin County, baby boomers (ages 55-73) outnumber all other age groups (Aspen Times, 2020). A senior population is considered anyone between the ages of 60-100 years old, but the needs of a 60-year-old will be very different from an 80-year-old, and not all the resources can cover that age gap.
Senior meals are popular, says Martin, where in Parachute, she’ll see an average of 40-70 people show up for the lunch program. “It’s more about socializing than it is about the meals. Up valley we have a grab-and-go lunch program on Mondays and Fridays, where we’ll see about 80 people on average.”
The meal program helps the older adult population cope with isolation issues and gives them an opportunity to connect, says Martin. “People say, ‘I won’t know anyone there,’ but if you’ve lived here a while, believe me, you’ll know someone at the lunches.”
She adds, “The older adult community is an amazingly friendly community that will let you in — they’re very giving, very helpful with each other and others.”
For Garfield County senior programs, please call 970-945-9191; Eagle County, 970-328-8840; and Pitkin County at 970-920-5432.
Local nonprofit Valley Life For All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or on Facebook.
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