County is getting older |

County is getting older

Alex Miller
NWS Senior Tap BH 1-20

EAGLE COUNTY – The Vail Valley may never top Florida or Arizona as a retirement destination. But with estimates that the senior population will double in the next five years, the county is responding with an increase in services for seniors.

In the county’s 2006 budget, a number of new positions have been added to the health and human services department – several of which are aimed at boosting what the county offers to seniors. That includes a full-time adult-services manager as well as an adult-services social worker.”This person will work directly with seniors, disabled adults and caregivers to assess their needs and develop plans so they can remain independent and in their own homes as long as possible,” said Kathleen Forinash, the county director of health and human services.Forinash said the added positions are part of a new adult services division, which is being formed in response to a changing population.

“Our senior population in Eagle County will grow by about 50 percent in the next five years,” she said. “Studies show that a lot of folks who own second homes in the valley intend for them to be their primary residences when they retire. And then there are the people who are aging in place.”While Eagle County still lacks an assisted-living facility of any kind, Forinash said the county is trying to plan for the future by putting more services in place for seniors. Part of that is having people who can help seniors and their families with the tough decisions that come later in life.”We know that about 2 percent of our senior population is at risk of moving into assisted living or skilled nursing care,” Forinash said. “We want to be sure when those situations arise that the families have someone who can meet with them and sort through what’s needed.”The county has also taken over the food services program for all three senior centers, which accounts for another bump in the budget.Active lifestyleThe stereotypical notion of a senior center where retirees sit around playing cards or knitting doesn’t have much in common with the types of programs offered locally. Pat Nolan, a physical therapist who runs the county’s senior center in Minturn, said she sees two distinct senior populations in Eagle County. The first comprises older residents who show up for twice-weekly lunches and lighter activities.”The younger seniors, the new baby boomers, they’re not as interested in that,” Nolan said. “They’re very interested in our more active programming like snowshoeing and pilates.”Serving the different groups is key to their mission, Nolan said, adding that keeping people healthy and out of the nursing home is another goal.”We’re trying to help people maintain their independence,” she said. “Exercise is a big part of that, as are all the wellness programs we do.”

Nolan said she thinks people retiring to Eagle County do so for the active lifestyle, but also, for some, because they have children here. That was the case for Mary Jane Sloat, 62, who came here last summer to be near her daughter and her family.”I actually thought I might retire here even before my daughter moved here,” said Sloat, who lives in Avon. “I thought it would be great to live in the mountains, so this was my chance.”Sloat said she retired early and came to the Vail Valley to enjoy it while she’s still “vigorous.””There are a lot of older, single women up here, I’ve heard,” Sloat said. “I think it’s gutsy women who do it.”Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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