An aging population will change our communities

A paradigm shift is occurring in America. The implications of this shift are affecting not just our nation, but the towns and communities that surround us.

America is living longer. In almost every state and virtually every community, the population of our elderly is increasing at outstanding rates. Between 2014 and 2020, the U.S. population of people 65 and older is projected to increase from about 46 million to 59 million. By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, this segment of the population will reach 74 million. By 2030, one out of every five people in the U.S. will be 65 or older.

If these numbers are too esoteric to comprehend, then let me bring it closer to home. In 2010, Garfield County had about 4,700 people older than 65. It is estimated that by 2020 the county will have about 9,440 residents 65 and older, and by 2030, the number will be almost 15,000. That is 100 percent growth by 2020 and 200 percent by 2030.

The impact this change will have on our communities and our lives will be significant. The way we look at future commercial and residential development, parks and recreation, transportation and business offerings is going to change. Further, how we market our community and the offerings we use to entice people to move here will change.

“ In 2010, Garfield County had about 4,700 people older than 65. It is estimated that by 2020 the county will have about 9,440 residents 65 and older, and by 2030, the number will be almost 15,000.”

Practically every business and service provider within our community will be affected by the senior population that is already here and those who will potentially come. But we have to prepare for this.

Last I checked, no colleges or universities were offering classes in Aging 101 or Helping my Parents 200. So how do we prepare for this change? How do we educate ourselves? Where can we learn how to assist our families and our loved ones as they age?

I am the director of a home-care company that provides nonmedical services. Nonmedical caregiving services are most often used by:

• The elderly to assist them to live independently at home. Often, services include help with meals, bathing, dressing, running errands, transportation to medical and personal appointments, housekeeping and companionship.

• People of all ages who are recovering from medical procedures and need added help at home. These services often include helping people prepare meals, bathe and get to and from medical appointments and physical therapy.

I have found that there is also a need to provide both resource and educational information to our community about aging. On almost a weekly basis, our office receives phone calls from not only people looking for assistance living at home independently, but also from the adult children of the elderly. Too often, adult children do not know how to help their parents and loved ones maintain a safe and independent life at home. Further, many adult children do not know where to find resources and direction on what they can do to help their parents and loved ones once they notice challenges in health and intellectual capacities.

It is my personal goal to educate our community on the process. I will be writing educational articles concerning aging within our community, and some of the topics I will address include:

• Suggestions for starting a conversation with our loved ones about their plans for their future.

• Developing a collaborative family team approach to care-giving.

• Signs to look for that indicate a loved one may need help living independently.

• Where to find resources.

• Health and wellness information.

• Medical and technological information.

• What we and our community can do to help our aging population.

• How to help make proper financial, legal and medical preparations.

It is important to us individually and as a community that we have an understanding of what is needed to support aging in place. Our community is rich in resources that can assist both our elderly in addition to those who are caring for loved ones and looking for help/guidance. Understanding what services may be needed and where to find them, will greatly assist everyone in improving an aging in place program.

Aging brings changes to us all. Helping people navigate the challenges that may lie ahead is something I really enjoy about my job — it is my passion. I look forward to providing education and sharing information with the Garfield County community.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Garfield County. His contact information is, 970-328-5526.

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