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For longevity in both the mind and body, stimulation is essential

Editor’s Note: This sponsored content is brought to you by Renew Senior Communities – Glenwood Springs

A senior community’s enrichment and activity program must be designed to redirect focus away from a resident’s limitations and toward productive, educational and social activities that will enhance the quality of life.
Courtesy of Renew Senior

Ample research demonstrates the mind’s capacity to influence a person’s health, both positively and negatively. If left unchecked, depression and despair can inhibit recovery from illness and lead to hopelessness and premature death.

Researcher Ken Wells, in the landmark Rand study at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 50 percent of all depressed people are over 65. Wells studied depressed versus nondepressed people and found that depressed elderly patients used four times the amount of health care dollars than nondepressed seniors, and had a 58 percent greater mortality rate within the first year of admittance to a skilled nursing facility than their nondepressed counterparts.

For example, depressed people tend to lack motivation to get up and move about. This inactivity makes them susceptible to urinary tract infections and pneumonia, which if left untreated can lead to kidney failure and death.

Stimulating the mind and body

For a community’s enrichment and activity program to be effective, it must be sensitive to the emotional forces that motivate people in this age group. The program must be designed to redirect their focus away from their limitations and toward productive, educational and social activities with a positive emphasis that will enhance the quality of life.

Today’s senior apartments are full of activity. Residents are attending college courses, cooking classes, traveling, and remaining active in service organizations in the community. Variety and respect for individual preference are key elements in a successful recreational activities program. Leisure interests are lifelong habits that each person develops. These interests continue into later life, even after one has entered a senior living community.

Courtesy of Renew Senior

A sense of purpose

Many innovative programs utilizing different services and modalities have been developed. Where communities provide supportive living and socialization, along with medical care, resident functioning is enhanced and deteriorations of old age are significantly delayed.

More and more research shows that if seniors want to feel younger and stay healthier, they need to get involved with life. The very act of volunteering and interacting with others brings a sense of purpose and contribution to one’s self and community in a way that can actually build longevity while strengthening the body, mind and spirit.

Improving brain function

According to recent studies, there is a strong and direct link between physical activity and how the brain works. Different types, amounts and intensities of physical activities improve brain function. Michelle Carlson of Johns Hopkins University is working with a novel new program called Experience Corps. This program embeds physical and mental activity into weekly volunteering for older adults to mentor children in local elementary schools.

“We need to address socioeconomic barriers to motivate older adults to regularly engage in healthful behaviors,” Carlson says. “And many people don’t appreciate the power of physical activity for our brains.”

Multiple studies from this and other similar programs have found that regular physical and mental activity has resulted in improved memory and other cognitive functions.

Theme-based activities

Intergenerational programs are part of the routine at Renew Roaring Fork. “We have a weekly music expressions group which brings seniors at the community together with toddlers to share a regular musical journey and explore the feel, sound and vibrations from various musical instruments,” according to Jennetta Howell, Renew enrichment director who leads the group.

As a musician and former singer/performer, she has both experienced and personally witnessed how the children and residents interact through the common string of music.

“The residents, children and moms all look forward to these weekly sessions which leave everyone invigorated and engaged,” she said.

She has found that targeting low-intensity activity that is theme-based, in this case music, is an important and scalable intervention that leaves everyone challenged and satisfied.

Renew Senior Communities are full of activity. Residents are attending college courses, playing golf, traveling, and remaining active in service organizations in the community.
Courtesy of Renew Senior

Meaningful impacts

Many older adults have a desire to participate in meaningful, productive activities that have been proven to be highly beneficial. In one recent study published in Aging magazine, epidemiological data suggests that for older adults, volunteering and intergenerational activities have been associated with lower mortality, improved well-being, life satisfaction and may decrease functional decline.

We all age differently mentally physically and emotionally. Whether you are you are simply experiencing “senior moments” or have been diagnosed with dementia, research shows that the condition is never bigger than the person and that there is something everyone can do to make an impact.

Whether it is helping children with reading skills or making art to donate to an underprivileged children’s program, seniors are not done yet and they still have something to contribute — and seniors are strengthened from that contribution, according to research in major universities like Johns Hopkins.

“We use activities and programming to promote a sense of well-being and purpose,” explained Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Management. “This provides a sense of accomplishment and contribution that is ‘instrumental’ to combatting the unhealthy effects of boredom and depression.“

Active aging

Research shows that creativity and imagination are untapped reserves in all elderly people and even in those with dementia. Given that, it’s possible that true retirement can actually become obsolete for active adults.

“We believe there are no age limits and that age is just another limit to shatter,” according to Mr. Tuchfarber. “Participating in a volunteer program drives health benefits through increased physical activity, a sense of contribution, and social connectedness. … Keeping busy by volunteering is a form of active aging and if you don’t use it you lose it, but if you do use it, you become stronger,” he concluded.

Youth mental health: Recognizing the signs and seeking help

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Mind Springs Health.

While emotional distress is a natural part of life as kids grow up, sometimes this distress can lead to more serious mental health concerns. As parents, it’s important to check in with your children often and ask them questions about how they’re doing.

Bullying, social media use, trauma, peer pressure, substance use, family violence, poverty — these are all factors that can influence the mental health of children and adolescents.

While emotional distress is a natural part of life as kids develop and mature, sometimes this distress can lead to more serious concerns.

Mental health isn’t just the absence of disease or a diagnosable disorder

— it includes emotional well-being, psychological well-being, social well-being and factors relating to quality of life, according to Youth.gov, a U.S. government website that promotes positive, healthy outcomes for American youth.

While research shows that youth or teen suicide often happens after a stressful life event, there are many other factors to consider when thinking about youth suicide risk.

Mind Springs’ Resiliency Program

Mind Springs Health has developed an entire curriculum called the Resiliency Program to promote positive mental well-being within local middle schools. The 30-week program includes activities and education on a variety of topics — such as optimism, building healthy relationships, positive emotions and more — that teach behavioral skills and help youth build resiliency.

“One of the things we know about building resiliency is practicing gratitude,” said Dr. Amy Gallagher, a licensed psychologist and vice president at Whole Health, a subsidiary of Mind Springs Health.

“The program is designed to help schools and other groups change culture, so everyone is speaking the same language to enhance mental well-being and to build strong and healthy relationships.”

The curriculum is designed for the classroom, after-school or recreation programs, but Gallagher said Mind Springs hopes to expand the program to provide educational opportunities for parents and communities, as well. She said the Roaring Fork School District intends to implement it during this school year.

What are kids struggling with?

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, conducted every two years in schools across the state, provides a lot of answers about what kids are struggling with these days. Gallagher said the survey shows youth are reporting varying levels of depression and anxiety, experimenting with substances, and some are coping with thoughts about suicide.

Depression is the number one risk factor for suicide by teens, the

third leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In ages 15 to 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, surpassed only by accidents.

One of the most effective ways to understand whether your child is experiencing mental health issues is to check in and ask them questions such as, “How are you feeling today? What’s going well? What’s not going well?”

“Make sure, as parents, you’re keeping communication lines open and really checking in with your children,” Gallagher said.

Addressing trauma

Every child or teenager is going to react differently to traumatic situations, which can include anything from abuse to neglect to grief or other stressors. Some children might have a significant response while others might not appear to be affected at all, said said Michelle Doll, licensed professional counselor (LPC) and program coordinator for Mind Springs Health outpatient services.

“When something traumatic occurs, we don’t want to minimize it,” Doll said. “It’s very important we don’t just assume that a kid is tough and therefore will be OK. Take the time to make sure they are in fact managing the trauma and we’re not seeing any signs of post-traumatic stress.”

Children will exhibit different symptoms of post-traumatic stress depending on their development level and age, but some signs might include social withdrawal, sleep problems, increased aggression, impulsivity, poor problem-solving, sadness and emotional regulation challenges.

Because a lot of these symptoms can be common among developing children and teens, it’s important to look at what else might be going on.

“When a child begins manifesting certain behaviors or symptoms, we look into whether there’s any history of trauma or trauma-related circumstances,” Doll said.

A thorough assessment with the youth and his or her parents or primary caregivers could determine the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatment for a kid suffering from post-traumatic stress is going to look a bit different than treating a kid with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for example.

“Is it post-traumatic stress, struggles with adjustment as a child transitions into different stages of development or changing life circumstances, or are we looking at another mental health concern such as an anxiety disorder emerging,” Doll said, “or is it an age-appropriate response and maybe the youth could benefit from support in a different capacity, for instance support with social skills?”

Removing digital stressors

Screentime is an everyday activity that might seem like no big deal, but it could be having serious effects on children and teens’ emotional well-being. Teens that spend 5 or more hours online per day are at significantly higher risk for suicide and depression than those spending less than 1 hour, according to research.

From video games to YouTube videos to social media, the effects of the Internet are far-reaching. One example is bullying, which isn’t a new problem facing youth, but it has been exacerbated due to social media. Kids can no longer leave school for the day and get a break from the teasing or harsh comments— bullying can now continue on in the digital space outside of school hours.

“Having an electronic diet can be helpful — what can families do to have electronics-free time,”  Gallagher said. “Parents need to model this for their children.”

In Silt, a unique retail gift shop with impressive variety and a big heart

Small-town shopping has something that big box stores or online retailers will never have: Charm, character, human interaction and genuine customer service. 

In Silt, small-town shopping also has another one-up on less personal shopping experiences: Carol Back, owner of the Whimsical Wagon. 

Online reviews link Carol and her unique store — which won first place for  “Best Gift Shop” in the Post Independent’s 2019 Locals’ Choice awards — together like a two-for-one special.

Every single item in the store is meant to evoke a certain playful spirit within each shopper, which reflects Carol’s personality and joy for what she does.
Courtesy photos

“Wonderful gift shop, lots of variety. Great place to get a last minute gift. Carol is a delight,” wrote one reviewer. 

“Great local shop whether you stop in for a cup of coffee, or need that perfect gift! Carol the owner is so friendly and has great jewelry, home decor, candles, and Jelly Bellies,” wrote another.

Back has lived in Silt since 1992. While she said it wasn’t the easiest place to open up a retail store due to the lack of foot traffic, it was the only place she wanted to have her store. Silt needed a little gift shop, she said, and The Whimsical Wagon is located in a great spot on Main Street.

“We’re long-time Silt residents and my existing customers thank me for being here — they’re happy the store is in Silt,” she said. “I have a lot of customers who come in and want to support local businesses, and they want to touch and feel the products they buy. Many of my customers have become long term friends I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.”

The Whimsical Wagon is located in a great spot on Main Street.
Courtesy photos

An evolving store

Carol opened The Whimsical Wagon in 2004 after spending 11 years as a banker. She had always made fun and creative gift baskets as a hobby, and her colleagues had been telling her for years that she had a special talent and should open up a business. 

Her husband had been operating a motorcycle shop out of their building in Silt, so they built an addition to it and she began The Whimsical Wagon in about 800 square feet of space. It started out mostly as a gift basket and collectibles retail shop, but over the years it has grown — both physically and literally — into so much more. 

“This is probably the hardest job I have ever done, but I like it, it agrees with me,” Carol said. “I click with it. I like to decorate and I do all of the displays, and I use a lot of unique things like antiques throughout the store. There’s life in antiques, so you get that warm feeling from them.”

The Great Recession hit and that caused the Backs to close the motorcycle shop, which allowed for The Whimsical Wagon’s expansion. As customers changed their habits — people weren’t as into collectibles anymore — Carol responded and started diversifying her inventory. 

“I do everything from my heart, including offering free gift-wrapping,” she said. “We’re one of those stores that has evolved. I have a kids’ corner, but we also have a lot of snarky humor items, too. It’s a store that caters to a wide range of people from all generations. In the past two years, the collectibles part of the business has picked up and Carol has added some new items to the many wonderful items already in stock.

She recently discontinued the espresso bar due to having two other coffee shops in Silt. She said it was a necessary change that has made room for more gift items.

A whimsical theme

Peruse The Whimsical Wagon and you’ll find unique gifts, lotions, soaps, greeting cards, wind chimes, puzzles, mugs, stuffed animals, jewelry, home decor and so much more. She added Charlie Bears in 2017— an English company that makes handmade collectible bears and characters — which keep with her whimsical theme and add something fun to the shopping experience, she said.

That’s what every single item in the store is meant to do — evoke a certain playful spirit within each shopper. It’s a part of Carol’s personality, and she loves to share this playfulness with her customers. 

Even the business’s hours are fun and unique: She opens from 9:57 a.m. to 5:49 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9:01 a.m. to 3:49 p.m. on Saturdays. 

“It’s kind of a giggle,” she said. 

Carol loves to see new customers’ amazement when they walk into the store. She keeps things interesting and authentic, and it shows when people see the store for the first time.

“First time there and I could get lost in all the fun whimsical items and local artisan items,” wrote one reviewer on Google, “definitely will be going back again and again.”

Sustainable living isn’t just about the environment, it’s about smart consumerism

When Alin Turcea and Antonia Pitica recognized the significance of plastic products in their everyday lives, they felt compelled to do something about it. 

Bags for produce, groceries, to-go cups, toothbrushes, water bottles — these items are a part of our everyday lives, and they’re almost always plastic. 

What if they could create these products for people who cared about living more sustainably for the sake of our planet, while also educating consumers everywhere about the importance of our individual actions? 

“We had a lightbulb moment, and we began reading about climate change to see what we could do to develop habits that were better for the environment,” Alin said. “We started EcoRoots when we realized how much of an impact consumerism was having on our lives and the lives of those around us.”

By creating this minimalist, earth-conscious brand, Alin and Antonia aim to encourage an economy that considers the future. They want consumers to have the power to choose, through the products they buy and use, what kind of world they want to live in.

“As we did our research, we realized that we had been making many of our choices out of convenience, without considering the consequences,” Antonia said. “We knew that, in order to ask other people to change, we needed to change first. So, the first step we took toward our new lifestyle was simply refusing what we didn’t really need.” 

Here are some of the reasons that making these small steps can not only change the way you live your life for the better, but also positively impact the environment..

Future generations

Alin and Antonia feel personally responsible to do their part to address pollution and climate change for future generations. Climate change is one of the most significant issues we’ll face in our lifetime, Antonia said.

“We have to consider how devastating the effects of plastic consumption are on our already fragile environment, including our oceans and marine life, but also our own health and well-being, too,” he said. “We can all make changes to ensure that our children and grandchildren aren’t left to clean up the mess we’ve made.”

Small steps are easy

Activities such as brushing your teeth or shopping at a grocery store are habits for most people. We do these things without thinking much about them, but what if the products you used didn’t end up harming marine life or clogging up landfills? What if you could use products as a consumer that actually meant something?

“It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re trying to change habits that you’ve had your whole life, but the key is being patient, and knowing that real change won’t happen overnight,” Alin said. “There are many small steps that you can take if you’re just starting out on this journey, and these small habits will become second-nature overtime.”

Alin and Antonia started their sustainably living journey by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. From there, they began to avoid plastic-wrapped produce, switched to biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes, began using reusable water bottles and switched to a reusable razor instead of single-use disposable razors.

Becoming more conscious overall

By making these small changes, Alin and Antonia became more conscious consumers everywhere they went. They checked packaging when they went shopping to avoid plastic whenever possible. They realized that while it’s not always possible to avoid plastic entirely, they could use a lot of substitute products such as reusable or recyclable packaging including glass, stainless steel or cardboard to ultimately have less of an impact on the environment.

“After you’ve made changes like composting, packing reusable bags for shopping trips, looking for products that come in recyclable, non-plastic packaging, look around your home and see what other products can be replaced by a sustainable alternative,” Alin said. “Using sustainable products will save you money in the long run.”

Steps that ALL consumers can take

Here are some of the ways Alin and Antonia make changes in their lives by using EcoRoots products. They believe this is a good starting off point for anyone interested in living more sustainably. Visit ecoroots.us for product options.

  • Buy fresh produce rather than produce wrapped in plastic. Check out your local farmers market or another grocery store if yours doesn’t have what you’re looking for.
  •  Unless medically necessary, skip the plastic straws. Because they’re not accepted by most recycling centers, many larger companies are beginning to ban them anyway, so this is one of the easiest to implement. 
  • Call your local recycling center if you’re not sure if something is recyclable, don’t just throw it out.
  • Compost your food leftovers. 
  • Bring reusable bags with you whenever you go shopping so you don’t have to take home any plastic bags.
  • Use a reusable coffee cup and water bottle so you can skip the paper and plastic.
  • Walk, use public transportation, car-pool, or ride your bike to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Eat locally. You’ll know exactly where your food is coming from, and you’ll get to support local businesses and farmers. This is especially easy in the summertime when most towns have weekly farmers markets.
  • Consume consciously. Buy things out of necessity, not boredom, and when you do need to buy something, try to find ethically sourced clothes and other products. 
  • Support small, local businesses.
  • Use alternatives to plastic whenever possible in products for the home, kitchen, health and beauty. 

Embrace the Chase: $1,000 prize money on the line for charity digital scavenger hunt

Advocate Safehouse Project is putting the FUN in fundraiser with its inaugural digital scavenger hunt Embrace The Chase, a competitive game that anyone and everyone can play from anywhere — with some serious prize money to boot.

From noon on June 22 to noon on June 23, participants will be asked to submit photos or videos, complete brain teasers and riddles to earn points. The top four teams at the end of the 24-hour digital event will win the prize money: $1,000 for first place; $750 for second place; $500 for third place; and $250 for fourth place.

Not your average fundraiser

Julie Olson, executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project, said the fundraiser idea came about when the organization decided it wanted to do something different from the typical walking/running race.

“We wanted to think outside the comfort zone,” she said.

When a board member suggested the digital scavenger hunt, the organization held a test version at its board member retreat last fall. Olson said many members were skeptical they would enjoy it.

“We had so much fun. Ours only lasted for 20 minutes, and when it was over none of us wanted to be done yet,” Olson said. “This is an opportunity to have some fun with your friends, family or co-workers.”

What to expect

Players are encouraged to sign up in teams of four, however single players or smaller teams can also play the game. You must download an app on your Apple or Android phone or tablet to play (see factbox for registration and other instructions).

There will be more than 200 challenges available to complete in the 24-hour period. Sarah Buckley, community education advocate for Advocate Safehouse Project, said some of the challenges relate to Advocate Safehouse Project’s work, such as education-based challenges about healthy relationships, while others might be tied to sponsors or popular community information.

Players might have to answer a question — such as “When was Advocate Safehouse Project founded? — for one mission, while another might require they upload a photo or video.

Here are some tips for how to play and take home that prize money.

Tip No. 1 – Go for big points

Since the missions can be done in any order and there are various amounts of points tied to each mission, Buckley said one strategy might be to go for the challenges with the most amount of points first.

Players can see the points — and bonus points — tied to each challenge before they start it.

“You want to complete as many challenges as possible so you can have as many points as possible in those 24 hours,” she said.

Tip No. 2 – The app is your friend

For photo and video challenges, players cannot find shortcuts by uploading previously taken files from their phones. You must use the app to shoot all photos and videos in real time.

For example, if the challenge is asking for a picture connected to the 19th Street Diner in Glenwood Springs, you either must go to the diner in person or you’d need to access the internet to snap your image. However, if using the internet to complete a photo or video challenge, you’d have to access it via a separate device than the one from which you’re using the game app.

The app also features a dashboard that allows players to see where they rank in real-time as the scavenger hunt progresses, giving players the opportunity to be competitive and try to beat out other teams.

Tip No. 3 – Break up challenges among team members

Once a challenge is completed by one member on a team, it’s completed for the entire team. So, another strategy might be to break up the list of possible challenges and assign them out to team members.

Tip No. 4 – Players can correct wrong answers

Advocate Safehouse Project volunteers will be approving and disapproving entries during the 24-hour game period.

If players submit an answer and it’s wrong, they’ll have the option to go back in and change it to collect those points.

6 Reasons to Experience Craft Beer in Colorado

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Colorado has the second highest number of craft breweries (behind California) in the country — and some killer beer festivals to boot — but this powerhouse industry often faces some image myths.

Despite the fact that plenty of bearded white dudes do enjoy craft beer, this is not the industry’s lone demographic. In fact, about half of the guests at Colorado Brewers Guild affiliated festivals — such as the upcoming Vail Craft Beer Classic — are women.

What exactly defines “craft” beer? The Colorado Brewers Guild defines it as beer brewed by breweries that are independent and small, brewing less than 2 million barrels per year.

“The ‘craft’ aspect also incorporates a strong sense of community and centuries worth of brewing tradition,” said Shawnee Adelson, Deputy Director at the Colorado Brewers Guild, “combined with a focus on pushing the boundaries of what can be done with this incredible beverage.”            

Here are some of the qualities of Colorado’s craft beer industry to experience yourself at the upcoming Vail Craft Beer Classic.

Endless variety

From styles of beer including IPAs, ales, stouts and porters, brown ales, wheats, hefeweizens, Belgian pale ales and others, to flavors such as tangerine, coriander, ginger, blood orange, watermelon and many more, craft beers are not easily defined by taste.

“Colorado is a melting pot that brings a wide spectrum of flavors and creativity to the table,” said Andy Jessen, co-founder and manager at Bonfire Brewing in Eagle. “Because it’s such an attractive place to live, we have brewers from all over the country bringing the best of many different recipe formulation philosophies. I think it creates unparalleled variety.”

More than hops

You’ve probably tried a craft beer — or maybe even several — that you didn’t like, but breweries are coming out with new styles all the time. Jessen said people often think craft beer is too hoppy, bitter or flavorful, but he said the variety of styles “is a rainbow with something for everyone.”

Currently, there’s a national industry trend toward producing lighter, lower calorie craft beers.

Tristan Schmid, Marketing and Events Manager at the Colorado Brewers Guild, said if you tried one brewery and didn’t like it, visit another or try a tasting flight to explore all the varieties.

“Some people might feel like craft beer is unapproachable, though if they stop in at their local brewery, they’ll likely find that the bartender will be happy to help them find a beer they’ll enjoy,” Schmid said.

Craft beers for the Colorado lifestyle

It’s become a tradition in communities across the state to hit the local brewery after a day of skiing, mountain biking, road cycling, mountaineering or whatever the outdoor adventure du jour is.

“This history and integration of craft beer in Colorado makes our industry unique and central to what defines Colorado,” Adelson said.

Community-based

There’s been a shift in the U.S. toward knowing where products are sourced — from produce to meat to seafood, and yes, even beer. By definition, craft beer and its smaller batch production is suited to small-town community vibes.

Craft brewers are also “scrappy, resilient and exceptionally community-oriented,” Jessen said.

“People want products they can see the people and history behind, and craft beer is ideally situated to cater to those desires,” Jessen said. “Try as many beers as you can, and support the breweries that do good things in your community. Most brewery owners/operators are working very long hours for very slim rewards because they’re passionate about beer, the people that drink it, and their respective communities.”

Last year, 67 independent breweries opened in Colorado, with about 50 planned to open this year. Many of these breweries are opening up in communities that didn’t have a craft brewery before, Schmid noted.

Brewers who care deeply about quality

Colorado brewers are constantly learning about ways to produce the highest quality beers through events such as the Colorado Brewers Guild’s annual Colorado Craft Brewers Summit. The Guild also helps brewery owners and managers learn about the best ways to make their breweries and beers approachable and enjoyable.

Jessen points out that peers in the industry are always willing to help spread knowledge about quality practices, too.

“And, to a great extent, it’s a self-policing business,” he said. “If the beer isn’t good, most people probably won’t give it a second chance.”

Friendly competition

Attend a beer festival like the Vail Craft Beer Classic and you’ll immediately notice the camaraderie among the brewers. These men and women are a passionate bunch just looking to share the joy of beer with as many people as possible.

These festivals also offer unique opportunities to get face time with these world-class brewers and enjoy one-of-a-kind beers.

“The Vail Craft Beer Classic is a great spot to meet many of those folks,” Jessen said, “and try a wide variety of what Colorado has to offer, in one of the most beautiful settings in our great state.”

A gym that helps members shed excuses

Between commuting to and from work, time with family and fitting in some daylight hours to enjoy our beautiful Colorado surroundings, there are a lot of things that can stand in the way of an indoor gym workout.

Anyone not in a regular workout routine can come up with plenty of excuses about why, but Colorado 24/7 Fitness believes that hitting the gym shouldn’t be a hassle or an obligation — that’s why it has designed a membership that offers convenience and variety.

“What we try to do is diminish those excuses by providing five locations and access 24 hours a day,” said personal trainer Nate Rand. “And our group classes are phenomenal when it comes to variety.”

By connecting with each and every member who walks through the door, Rand said the vibe at all five Colorado 24/7 Fitness locations — in Basalt, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt and Rifle — is welcoming and encouraging. And for $50 a month, he thinks there isn’t a gym anywhere on the Western Slope that can match the value.

Covering every fitness niche

These days, fitness studios that focus on one specific niche — indoor cycling, yoga, barre, boxing, weight training, HIIT and others — have become the norm. Someone who’s interested in more than one of these styles of workouts might have to get memberships to multiple places just to fit it all in.

“We have every bit of that under one of our roofs for $50 a month,” said personal trainer John Bennett. “Add in our phenomenal spa services, chiropractors, physical therapy and personal trainers — there’s truly nothing like it in this area.”

Group classes

From yoga to body pump to cycling to strength and endurance classes, Colorado 24/7 Fitness wants its members to have workout options. Rand said classes cater to all age groups and levels, and they even offer senior-targeted Silver Sneakers workouts.

Grit and Pump classes offer high intensity interval training and high repetition weight training, while other strength and conditioning classes might focus on working out with certain equipment.

“There can be a lot of frustration trying to find a place that has all of these options and services, so we try to offer all of it in one place,” Rand said.

No excuses

In the Roaring Fork Valley, most people do not live where they work. With locations throughout the valley — near both work and home — Colorado 24/7 Fitness is trying to help people make a healthy lifestyle as important as earning a paycheck.

“To have that 24-hour access and all of these locations, you can work out before work, during lunch, after work — whenever you choose,” Rand said. “We try to connect and unify our gyms in our motto, which is “Come Join Us.”

One-on-one personal training sessions can help members figure out the psychological side of working out, which Rand said is often one of the biggest reasons people fall out of a regular routine.

“We can dial in and find out what’s preventing them from getting to the gym,” Rand said. “Are they in a certain mindset or do they just need extra guidance or knowledge? That’s what our trainers and employees are there for.”

By making sure the doors are open and providing services, expertise and a welcoming atmosphere, Colorado 24/7 Fitness is always there for its members.

“Life happens, people change, people get out of routines, they get a new job, etc. When it’s time to go back to a gym routine, we have a comfortable place,” Bennett said.

Buying a home is not for the faint of heart

Buying a home can be a stressful event regardless of a person’s income, but two upcoming seminars aim to help community members learn a little bit more about the banking side of the process.

As part of the Happy Home Seminar Series — a new, free event series hosted by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and sponsors — Vectra Bank mortgage loan officers Carolyn Meadowcroft and Nathan Phillips will be visiting Rifle and Glenwood to provide informal, educational presentations about two specific loans the bank offers.*

“This is important across the Western Slope where we have a lot of individual, special communities,” Phillips said. “It requires having a bank that is going to think outside the box and work toward creative solutions to get people into homes.”

Here are the two loans that Meadowcroft and Phillips will share more details about at the events.

One-time close

The one-time close loan at Vectra Bank is a construction loan and permanent mortgage in one loan, with a closing that happens at the same time.

While this type of loan isn’t totally unique, she said the Vectra version does have some benefits that others do not. One is that the interest rate on the construction loan is the same as it is for the mortgage. Because it is a portfolio loan, it’s an adjustable rate mortgage, meaning the interest rate is fixed for an initial period and then adjusts annually or as specified thereafter. According to Meadowcroft, interest rates can often be as much as 1 percent less than you might find with traditional financing.  The loan may also cover up to 90 percent of the cost of construction, whereas other similar loans often only cover up to 80 percent.

“The Roaring Fork Valley has a lot of home buyers who scrape old homes and build something brand new,” Phillips said. “Because it’s so common, the bank has a process in place to review construction plans and specifications to help borrowers determine if the loan amount is over- or- underestimating the total cost.”

“We have a two-pronged approval process: We approve the borrower on the credit side, and the construction approval process looks at the plans and specs from the builder,” Phillips said. “We typically have at least a 5 percent contingency built into the loan.”

Because the mortgage is closed before construction, there isn’t the ability to come back and increase the loan amount should the project run into cost overruns. Because of this, Meadowcroft said Vectra Bank encourages home buyers to ask for a fixed bid or guaranteed price from builders.

Vectra Bank mortgage loan officer Nathan Phillips
Photos courtesy of Vectra Bank
Vectra Bank mortgage loan officer Nathan Phillips

CRA loan

Vectra Bank’s CRA program is a loan that meets U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) guidelines. The mortgage program offers lower down payment options and is intended to help those within a low to moderate income bracket qualify for a home loan. The program is often used for first-time home buyers although that isn’t a requirement.

Vectra Bank has been offering its new CRA loan since January 2019. The CRA loan requires as little as a 3 percent down payment and offers a slightly lower interest rate than what you’d get with a conventional loan. Another benefit of the program is that the lender, not the buyer, pays the private mortgage insurance premium.

“That can make a big difference when someone is qualifying for a loan,” Meadowcroft said.

The program does have income limits, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all amount because the bank uses a formula based on the location of the home. But for those who do qualify, the mortgage payment can be lower thanks to associated benefits of the program.

“That’s a big deal in our valley with higher sales prices,” she said.

Meadowcroft said the CRA program fits in with a lot of other loan programs geared toward first-time home buyers — such as FHA, CFHA, USDA and others — but the CRA loan in particular typically allows people to qualify for a higher loan amount due to the lower interest rate.

“The CRA loan is a great alternative for qualified borrowers. In the event the potential borrower may not meet the CRA qualification requirements, we can show them other potential options we have,” Meadowcroft said. “It does require that you take a homebuyer education class, but we encourage our borrowers to take those homebuyer classes anyway.”

Rafting trips that focus on quality, not volume

When you head out on a river rafting trip, do you want to remember the experience of being on an scenic and adventurous trip in the great outdoors, or do you want to remember feeling like you were at an amusement park?

River rafting in Colorado is one of the quintessential outdoor recreation experiences. You get to work as a team with your guide to paddle through the river, experiencing its energy all while taking in the incredible views of our mountain landscapes and wildlife such as the great blue heron, bald eagles, mink, deer and more. This experience is often diminished by rafting companies that shoot for volume over quality.

At Up The Creek Rafting, there’s no school bus ride with 50 other people that dumps you off at the river’s edge. Up The Creek’s guide-to-guest ratio is 1 to 4.

“We want to be able to focus on the guest instead of running people down the river like a herd of cattle,” said Ryan Moyer, former owner of Up The Creek who now serves as a guide instructor and consultant.

Courtesy of Up The Creek Rafting
At Up The Creek Rafting, the guide-to-guest ratio is 1 to 4.
Courtesy of Up The Creek Rafting

The trips

Up The Creek offers three levels of rafting trips: moderate, adventurous, and intense.

Moderate trips require that customers weigh at least 30 pounds. These trips offer a mix of action and calm moments, making for a great introductory or beginner trip.

“In our moderate trips, the rapids are spaced farther apart with some mellower sections,” Moyer said.

Adventurous trips on the Upper Roaring Fork offer perfectly paced splashing, with continuous rapids throughout the entire length of the trip. Moyer said it’s not necessarily “white-knuckle adrenaline,” but it is a fun enough adventure for beginners to more experienced paddlers.

Adventurous trips are for anyone 50 pounds and over, and intense trips have an age requirement of 18.

“The intense trips are further up on the Roaring Fork River, which gains intensity as you move upstream,” Moyer said.

The only trip for which guests need prior experience is Slaughterhouse Falls in the Aspen area.

Daily Express Trip in under an hour

A river rafting trip is often a time commitment equal to at least half a day. For people trying to fit a lot of activities into their vacation, or for those who aren’t sure they’re interested in paddling the river at all, there might not be a compelling enough reason to make such a time commitment.

That’s why Up The Creek offers Express Trips, which are fairly out of the ordinary for Colorado raft trip options. Every day at noon, Up The Creek tackles a fun 5-mile stretch of river in under an hour. It’s the most affordable rafting trip around, too, at $39.

“You can get the best part of the experience without committing a half day or more to it,” Moyer said.

Guests come first

When Up The Creek takes out guests on river rafting trips, guides don’t want them worrying about things that might take away from their river experience. Guests wearing the wrong gear, for example, can get cold and wet, which makes for a pretty miserable trip.

Up The Creek includes splash gear, helmets, wetsuits, river shoes and personal floatation for guests with all river packages. Moyer doesn’t believe in trying to upsell the guests for items that he says are essential for a fun — and safe — day on the river.

“The upsell might steer people away from it, but it’s important that everyone has the gear because it makes you comfortable and safe,” he said. “That’s important especially for visitors, because they don’t always know what they need on the river.”

Keeping guests comfortable also goes hand in hand with keeping them safe. Moyer said Up The Creek Rafting hasn’t had any serious issues on its river trips since the company started in 1997. He’s really proud of that.

“We want our guests to have absolute safety and comfort,” Moyer said. “Guests come first.”

‘If you want to go far, go together’

From Independence Pass to the Roan Plateau, the Aspen Valley Land Trust wants to understand how communities are feeling about population growth, changing climate, conservation issues, and community issues, among other topics. Through various community engagement efforts, AVLT hopes to shape its strategic conservation plan — which will outline the organization’s conservation work in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys over the next 5 to 10 years — with a lot of input from the community.

“We hope to find out not just what pressing conservation issues people identify, but what pressing issues conservation might be able to help address,” said Suzanne Stephens, executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust. “We hope to connect with supporters as well as people and communities that are not currently involved with the Land Trust so that we can better understand the trends people worry about, and help set a future course that is most responsive to current needs.”

The issues
Some of the many issues facing the valley include a lack of affordable housing, impacts of drought, climate change, loss of open space and agricultural land, and pressures on wildlife and natural resources.

One of AVLT’s most important engagement tools is a 15-minute survey it hopes residents will fill out online. The questions aim to gather information about which issues matter most to people.

Is access to locally grown food as important as providing critical habitat and resources for wildlife? Do people want to maintain open spaces and scenic buffers between communities? Do they want to maintain the rural agricultural heritage of the area? How much does conserving land really matter to local residents?

“The population rate in Colorado is growing, and we’re feeling that change pretty acutely,” said Matt Annabel, Communications and Outreach Director at Aspen Valley Land Trust. “Every community feels it a little differently, so we’re wanting to engage folks to understand what they’re feeling now, and what each community’s threats and opportunities are now.”

Community-driven conservation
Across the country, land trusts are stepping back, talking with their communities and taking stock of where they want to focus to produce the best conservation – and community – outcomes, Stephens said.

“Throughout our history, this concept of community-driven conservation has been a recurrent theme, but it’s risen back to the forefront over the last few years as a result of a few high-profile community projects such as the Save Red Hill effort and the purchase of a property used for outdoor education in Marble that hopes to serve schools from Aspen to Glenwood,” she said.

This important feedback will help AVLT direct and prioritize landscape-scale conservation work, as well as other types of community-drive conservation projects like these. It’s the first time the organization has ever solicited such broad community feedback.

“We don’t want to add something to our mission that’s not a good fit for the communities we work in, nor do we want to leave behind something really important,” Annabel said.

This community involvement will help AVLT become more aware and connected and informed as it charges ahead.

“A land trust relies on partnerships to make conservation happen, and the people and communities we work with are our most important partners,” Stephens said. “As the old saying goes, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’”