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Senior housing remains a priority in New Castle

Jerimie Richardson
Citizen Telegram Contributor

NEW CASTLE — In the coming decades, Colorado and the country are expected to face an explosion in senior population, which is why the town council here recently hosted a roundtable to discuss ongoing efforts to establish New Castle as retirement haven, which could be both socially and economically beneficial.

Council invited Patty Snidow, of the U.S. Department of Aging, and Dave Norman, a consultant on aging for the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, to the discussion during its meeting July 21.

Census.gov, the website of the U.S. Census Bureau, projects that the segment of the population age 65 and over will double in size from 43.1 million to 83.7 million over the next 35 years.

On the local front, New Castle’s existing senior housing facility has a lengthy wait list, with seniors from all over the country vying for one of the facility’s 23 units. The town has been working with Community Resources & Housing Development Corp. — a Colorado nonprofit that developed and manages the existing New Castle Senior Housing facility — on building a new facility.

The town expects to hear within the next month if CRHDC received a tax credit — a crucial component needed to move forward — from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.

Leslie Means, property manager for New Castle Senior Housing, is all in favor of a little healthy cross-town competition.

“We have a wait list more than a year long. Because, we don’t have a lot of turnover,” Means said. “I absolutely do want a new facility because our facility has an age limit of 62, I can’t even take an application if you’re not 62 years old. The new facility would allow people as young as 55 to move in and also would allow those who are still working and have higher income. It (the new facility) would fill up quick, because I know they also have a very long wait list over in Rifle.”

According to Snidow, when seniors still want to be near family when they decide to give up their homes and move into assisted living facilities. The Western Slope has been a destination for transplants from other parts of the country for decades — making New Castle and the surrounding area an especially attractive location to many seniors.

Snidow also outlined why a new senior housing facility should be considered equally attractive to all New Castle residents. “My agency,” she said, “brings in $600 to $800 million a year to rural Colorado.”

Norman, of the AGNC, illuminated what the senior care industry has meant for nearby Mesa County.

According to Norman, hospice care brings in $35 million, Medicaid brings in $34 million and there is an additional $20 million economic benefit that comes from the 2,400 beds that comprise the Grand Junction area nursing home facilities. As Norman put it, senior care is the “fourth largest industry in Mesa County.”

Traditionally, senior housing has been federally funded. However, federal budget shortfalls in recent years have made corporate sponsorship the more feasible method of funding.

The tax credit and favorable publicity that would result from funding such a project would be the primary incentive for a corporation to become involved with the project. The University of Utah’s Huntsman Oncology Center may also become a partner.

However the money is raised, Mayor Bob Gordon and the town council have a vision of the proposed senior housing facility as being a “continuum of care” including recreation, hospice, nursing, medical offices and the relatively new development of telemedicine, in which residents would be able to conference with specialists and health care via the Internet.

Councilor Merle Means, who is married to New Castle Senior Housing property manager Leslie Means, was adamant that the culture of the proposed facility run contrary to preconceived notions about senior care.

“One of the main things we need to do is change the stigma from ‘that’s where we go to die,’” Means said.

Snidow recommended that the next step in the process was for the town council to hire an independent consultant to conduct a feasibility study for the proposed facility. Snidow informed the council that whoever the council hires to conduct the study must be truly neutral and have absolutely no past, present or future involvement in the proposed senior housing project.


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