Where will Aspen’s old folks go? | VailDaily.com

Where will Aspen’s old folks go?

ASPEN, Colorado ” Aging Aspenites who need assistance caring for themselves have minimal options of where to go, forcing them out of a community they’ve called home for decades.

In response to the absence of an assisted-living facility in Aspen, local governments and publicly-funded organizations are collectively chipping in $25,000 to underwrite the cost of a feasibility study.

The request was introduced by Mayor Mick Ireland this week in front of the Aspen City Council, which voted to contribute one-fourth of the cost ” $6,250.

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners also approved the same amount, said Ken Canfield, a board member of the Senior Council, a citizen advisory group for Pitkin County. Other contributions are expected from Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen Medical Foundation.

Canfield believes there are enough seniors in Pitkin County to support an assisted-living facility.

“Our demographics are in our favor,” he said. “People who have spent their whole lives here and made great contributions have to go as far as Denver to get care.”

For years, efforts were made to expand the assisted-living facility at Castle Terrace, which accommodates only 15 people, Canfield said. Not only does the facility lack rooms, it also lacks the ability to give full-spectrum care.

“Unfortunately, many people need more than the facility can handle, and they are forced out of their community,” Canfield said.

Most typical assisted-living centers offer a full continuum of care, including nursing and dementia facilities. They also offer individual units on site so people can live by themselves, yet still get the assistance they need.

Canfield noted that Aspen cares about its people enormously ” especially if one considers that the community leads the effort in providing affordable housing for workers, and has a state-of-the-art recreation center and animal shelter.

But left out of the equation is a place for Aspen’s oldest residents to live.

Whatever company operates a continuum care facility, it would be self-sustaining financially, Canfield said. The challenge, of course, will be finding affordable land ” a big hurdle that Canfield acknowledges.

“That will be figured out in the second phase . … We really need to determine the feasibility of land and what kind of facility,” he said.

This past spring, $30,000 was spent on a community survey to gauge interest in such a facility.

“The results were quite positive,” Canfield said, adding that surveys went out to about 500 residents, both part-time and full-time.

“An interesting thing about the survey was that people want to stay here versus going to a warmer climate,” Canfield said.

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