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April 30, 2012
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Boomers want to age in one place

Editor's note: This is the second part of a three-part series on aging in the high country and the opportunities and challenges that come with it.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - June Walters looked across a crowd of hundreds of professional caregivers and hit them right between the eyes.

"You'll spend more time caring for your mother than your mother spent caring for you," Walters said, who does economic development for the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

The number of Colorado's seniors will skyrocket over the next few years, like the rest of the country.

They'll need help doing things most of us do routinely, said Elizabeth Garner, Colorado's state demographer.

"No one thinks they'll have a disability, but most of us will," Garner said.

It was once thought that when Baby Boomers stopped skiing and hiking, they'd leave. That's not what we're seeing.

"Every indication is that they are staying," said Rachel Lunney, research project manager with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

As we get older we want to stay put, says Dr. Rodney Harrell with the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Turns out that 86 percent of us want to age in place, and most of us are making that happen, Harrell says.

"They're used to getting what they want. And they want to age in place," Walters said.

It seems simple, but you really do need to prepare before you're old.

Take your home, for instance, Harrell said.

Is there a sidewalk out front? Is there an entrance without steps? Is there a wider-than-average doorway so you can get a walker or mobility device through it, including strollers? Is there a bedroom on the first floor?

Most of us will have some sort of disability as we continue to age, said Elizabeth Garner, Colorado's state demographer.

"No one thinks they'll have a disability, but most of us will," Garner said.

"Three percent of American homes have a disability feature. But 30 percent of us live in homes with someone who has a disability," Harrell said. "When we buy a home in our 30s, we don't think about it 20 or 30 or 40 years down the road when we're dealing with a disability and possibility still paying a mortgage."

Half of us in Colorado have a mortgage on our home.

"We're second in the country behind Maryland. So we have the challenges of owning with a mortgage," Harrell said. Baby Boomers are more willing to take on debt than previous generations, Harrell said, and for some it's not going well. With the Great Recession and the reduction in home values, we're seeing more of this group struggling to make the bills.

More than half of us, both renters and buyers, are spending half or more of our income on housing costs, Harrell said.

"Incomes go down as we get older, but housing costs don't necessarily go down with them," Harrell said. "You should be spending 30 percent of your income on housing. Most of us are spending much more."

In 2008, more than 25 percent of foreclosures were among those 50 and older, Harrell said.

Boomer Consumers are used to getting what they want, and they want to age in place, Walters said.

For older adults to stay where they are, they want "livable communities," Harrell said.

"What makes a community livable for families are the same things that make it livable for older adults," Harrell said.

Some states are better prepared than others, but none are truly ready, Harrell said.

"No state is well prepared," Harrell said.

Some, though, are better than others. Pima County, Ariz., is a shining example. Tucson, Florida and Vermont are pretty good.

"Living, working, raising a family and growing old right where I am. That's the private side," Walters said. "The public side is enhancing the tax base and growing the economy that can make that possible."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 30, 2012 11:26PM Published Apr 30, 2012 11:23PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.