Eagle County seniors sound off about what has them concerned
EAGLE — When given the opportunity to talk about the issues that are bothering them, a group of local senior citizens identified many of the same issues that local 20-somethings decry.
The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Alpine Area Agency on Aging hosted the discussion Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the Golden Eagle Senior Center. Director Erin Fisher noted that as a requirement to receive state and federal funding, every four years the agency has to author a report about how it spends its money and what services it provides. As it works on that report, the agency is reaching out to seniors in the five-county area — Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit — it serves.
To launch the discussion, Fisher asked the group of around 20 local seniors a basic question. “What are you going to need in the next five years, 10 years and even 15 years to support you in your home?”
The answer was equally basic. The seniors said they will need an affordable place to live.
“The biggest thing we need in this area is low-cost housing for seniors,” offered one of the seniors. “I am 50th on the list for this place (the 50-unit independent senior living complex in Eagle), and I will probably be dead before they get to me.”
“Housing has been one of the biggest issues in every area we have been in,” Fisher said.
She noted that seniors in Eagle County are faring better than their counterparts in other parts of the five-county area.
“Summit County doesn’t even have senior housing. We are so fortunate to have what we do have,” she said.
Mobility and health care
Beyond housing, seniors said transportation is a major concern. A program called Mountain Ride provides transportation for seniors, but there are tight guidelines for the service. The seniors said they want a more accessible, less regulated system.
“And it bothers me when they bring their enormous bus to transport just one person,” offered one of the seniors.
The transportation discussion crossed over to another one of the group’s biggest concerns — heath issues. They spoke about the difficulties they experience trying to get to doctors appointments and the high cost of some services.
One senior was blunt about what she needed in order to stay in her home as she aged.
“A walk-in bathtub and an elevator,” she said.
The seniors in Eagle were a savvy group who were generally aware of the depth of services offered through the Alpine Area Agency on Aging. But as the discussion progressed, members of the group learned about dental and hearing aid assistance programs.
“I have never heard about that before. Where was I supposed to hear it?” asked a participant.
When asked where they get their program information, the seniors’ initial response was “email and social media.”
“But I know two people in this room who don’t use a computer and don’t have a smartphone. We need phone numbers,” said one senior. Other suggestions included refrigerator magnets with important numbers listed and bulletin board postings at the senior center. And, most importantly, the seniors stressed they wanted to know the people who are providing senior services so they have a representative to directly contact.
In that area, Fisher said the Alpine Area Agency on Aging and Eagle County senior services are committed to improving the lives of local seniors.
“Here’s what I am hearing: We need to do a better job of educating, informing and collaborating,” Fisher said.