Vail Daily column: Time is now for senior center
Why has it taken so long to create a care community for older generations in Eagle County? This question has been asked many times, and as capital campaign committee chair for Castle Peak Senior Care Community, I think it should be addressed.
Thirty years ago, demand for services to help older adults stay in Eagle County was not as high as it is now — not only in Colorado but nationwide. The number of older adults began increasing significantly in 2011, when 10,000 boomers started turning age 65 daily.
Older adults are the fastest growing segment of Eagle County’s population. Between 2010 and 2020, the county’s 65-plus and 75-plus populations are forecast to grow by 159 percent and 222 percent, respectively. Increasing demand means we can no longer wait to build a care community here.
Eagle County’s rural resort setting has been another stumbling block for residents seeking extended care. As rural areas are less populous, the pool of individuals who can support a care community is more limited than it would be in urban centers. At the same time, the cost of land, construction, labor and other expenses here are 1.5 times greater than in other areas.
For example, in 2011, assisted living construction costs in Minnesota were $90 per square foot and $150 in Eagle County. Skilled nursing construction costs were $230 per square foot in Eagle County as opposed to $150 per square foot in Minnesota — and two-thirds of Castle Peak Senior Care Community involves skilled nursing.
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I have also heard questions about why a mix of public and private dollars (including philanthropic dollars) is needed to build the Castle Peak Senior Care Community. Without fundraising support, resident rates would have to be 30 percent higher to pay for the cost of operations.
The fact is, costs are too high for public or private investors to fund alone — especially as federal and state governments do not typically pay the full cost of building and operating care centers in rural mountain communities. A partnership between government and private entities is therefore needed to fill in financial gaps that can occur when a care community is being developed.
Though some question why Castle Peak Senior Care Community wasn’t developed by a for-profit company, eliminating the need for philanthropy, I think a nonprofit organization is the best possible choice. Eagle County selected nonprofit elder-care provider Augustana Care because numerous studies cited by the Center for Medicare Advocacy show nonprofits rank higher than for-profit organizations for the quality of care they provide.
That means when your health or the health of a loved one is at stake, Augustana Care can utilize its expertise in the skilled nursing field for a better outcome. And, as stated previously, the need for skilled nursing at Castle Peak is high.
This year, we are finally on the cusp of a new reality that will make a significant difference to the ability of older generations to stay in Eagle County and find the care they need to thrive. Not only will they be able to stay in the community, they will have opportunities to connect to schoolchildren and other Eagle Ranch residents who will be part of the fabric of their daily lives. Because we can’t delay any longer, the time to support Castle Peak Senior Care Community is now.
To learn more about how to donate or volunteer, please visit http://www.CastlePeak.org. You may also contact Campaign Coordinator Matt Scherr directly at mscherr@augustana care.org or 970-445-8990. With just $715,000 needed to complete the campaign, your contributions will enable us to make our community whole.
Merv Lapin is a longtime resident of Eagle County.