In this third installment, I would like to bring attention to what I believe is the greatest hurdle in being able to permit seniors consider staying, and moving to, Eagle County.
As identified in my past two columns, it is anticipated that Eagle County’s population of people age of 65 and older will grow by 157 percent in the next six years. By 2030, Eagle County will have a senior population that has grown 333 percent. Where will these people live? What types of homes will they want? What services will they require, and who will provide these services?
A change in our community is coming. As with any change, there will be people for and against such change. For those who view this coming change with great apprehension, please consider the following and the profound economic consequences.
The Boomers are a highly educated, socially conscious, involved and philanthropic generation. They own 77 percent of the nation’s assets, eat out three times per week, purchase 43 percent of all cars, account for 90 percent of all travel and spend over a trillion dollars per year. Their economic power is unparalleled.
This generation is giving away astronomical amounts of money. While the Gates, Larry Ellison, Paul Allen, Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffett may be some of the extremes, look to our own valley and consider the people who contribute to the Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Valley Charitable Fund and other charitable organizations. The Boomers account for a large share of donations made in our valley.
SENIOR HOUSING NEEDS
What will seniors need?
Seniors will look at their housing requirements in a different manner. Most will not need or want three-plus-bedroom homes. Most likely, they may desire single-level, ranch-style homes with few stairs. Wide hallways may be desired. Bathrooms may be designed to be larger and more conducive to step in showers and grab bars.
Developers and county officials may want to consider what livable communities look like and how they may integrate into our community. There are many successful models; Green House communities and Active Adult communities are just a few.
HEALTH CARE SERVICES
What service may seniors need?
Health care services top the list. Our county’s ability to address the medical needs of seniors will trump all other service needs. Here lies great opportunity for our community. A vibrant medical economy will bring numerous new businesses and provide high-paying jobs.
Transportation service needs will change. While most Boomers are many years away from giving up their cars, there are many that may consider alternative means of transportation. Although automotive safety technologies like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning systems and blind-spot monitoring are becoming more prolific, inclement weather and tumultuous mountain driving will deter many from driving their cars.
Currently, we are an automobile-dependent rural area with few transit options. Our ECO Transit system is not designed to meet the door-to-door transportation needs for those unable to drive. Our ability and desire to expand our transit services is going to make a big difference in how we as a community develop and grow.
Who will provide services?
According to a study from Georgetown University, “the health care sector will create 5.6 million new jobs by 2020.” Here in Colorado, there are about 50 hospital construction projects in development, with a $3.4 billion price tag. Our state is preparing for what lies ahead, a “silver tsunami.”
Colorado Mountain College is on target by providing a number of courses in nursing at the Edwards, Glenwood Springs and Summit County campuses. The school’s nursing program is approved by the Colorado State Board of Nursing and recently hired a new nursing educator, Brad Austin.
The Castle Peak Senior Care Community will need to staff the facility, and hopefully, many will come from CMC. However, currently our county does not have a substantial base of experienced nurses. Homecare and Hospice of the Valley is constantly in search of CNAs, RNs and LPNs. Such a shortage taxes their ability to provide service. The same holds true for other medical providers. Experienced nurses and medical staff are in high demand.
Without doubt, the Boomers are coming to Eagle County. Along with them comes the demand for services and employees. Eagle County is going to need to not only find a way to entice prospective employees to consider moving here but also provide them with housing that they can afford.
Hmm ... go figure. The affordable housing issue raises its head again. In a community fueled by the demand for labor, affordable housing remains our great self-imposed nemesis.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, visit www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.