Ritter signs bills to help senior citizens | VailDaily.com
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Ritter signs bills to help senior citizens

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press Writer

DENVER (AP) ” Gov. Bill Ritter signed three bills Tuesday designed to help senior citizens stay in their homes, calling the state’s growing population of elderly a resource to be tapped.

The measures include $3 million in increased funding for in-home services such as Meals on Wheels, transportation and medical services; a $2.1 million increase to the state’s Old Age Pension Fund to increase funding for care providers; and a new Alzheimer’s Coordinating Council to identify care available for the disease.

Ritter says the state’s elderly population is expected to double from 561,000 in 2004 to 1.2 million in 2020.

“These are untapped resources. There are a lot of baby boomers moving into retirement age who can remain involved and remain contributors,” Ritter told residents of a Denver senior citizens home as he signed the bills.

Fern Osborne, 86, chairwoman of the public-policy lobbying group Older Americans Coalition, said Colorado programs for the elderly were hit hard when the economy soured in 2002. Their funding wasn’t protected in the state constitution like public education, Medicaid and other programs were.

“We couldn’t even keep up with the rising cost of living. We have waiting lines for Meals on Wheels, people signed up for home care and transportation,” she said.

Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, said he asked senior citizens in Weld County their biggest problem, and expected it to be transportation. Instead, their biggest issue was maintaining programs that keep them in contact with other people, such as Meals on Wheels.

“It was isolation. People didn’t feel they were properly connected,” he said.

Ritter also signed legislation that would protect water resources amid a resurgence of uranium mining, bringing a tearful thank-you from Robin Davis, who has an 80-acre ranch near Nunn in northeast Colorado.

Davis feared a proposed uranium mine would contaminate her water and destroy her dream of setting up a nature program for school children.

The bill strengthens the rules for in-situ leach mining, a process that injects substances underground that critics say could lead to the poisoning of groundwater and the landscape.

“A year ago we felt helpless. We discovered there were no regulations to protect water. As we know, water is life. We were very scared,” Davis said before Ritter signed the bill.


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