Vail Daily column: Join conversation on aging well | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Join conversation on aging well

Kathy Chandler-Henry
Valley Voices

Kathy Chandler-Henry

This is a big week for seniors in Eagle County.

Thursday is the groundbreaking for the new Castle Peak Senior Care Center, located in Eagle. The Castle Peak Center boasts 64 beds for assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care and rehab. More than 25 years in the making, this wonderful new asset provides a choice for locals to stay near their friends and families when they need more care than is possible at home.

If you haven't seen the plans yet, take a look online at http://www.castlepeak.org. Nestled between Brush Creek Elementary and the lively business district in Eagle Ranch, Castle Peak promises to link generations, provide new skilled jobs, create options for rehab and become home for some of our community's elders.

Sixty-four beds is great. But aren't there a lot more seniors than that in Eagle County? In fact, the fastest growing population in the coming years is the 65-plus segment. While the overall population is projected to double between 2010 and 2035 in our region, demographers predict the number of older adults to more than quadruple. Eagle County's growth of seniors was the third highest in the state from 2000 to 2010, and the rate of growth isn't slowing down any.

That leads to the second major event happening this week — a community conversation on aging taking place Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. Community members participating in the Aging Well Community Planning Initiative are hosting that conversation to gather input on issues facing our aging population.

Health care is one of those issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, health care costs per capita for persons 65-plus in the U.S. are three to five times greater than for those younger than 65. CDC further projects that the public cost of long-term care will increase more than 20 percent by 2020, unless public health interventions decrease disability among older persons. Colorado's Bell Policy institute estimates that 70 percent of people over 65 will need long-term care.

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The Aging Well Community Planning Initiative is developing a five-year plan not only to decrease disability, but to increase the chances all of us can remain in our homes and our communities as we age. Aging in place is the only option that is financially viable for many of us. Taking a look at health care, nutrition, social engagement, physical activities, housing and transportation through the eyes of the older demographic reveals barriers to aging in place. With input and experiences from the community, the Aging Well initiative hopes to provide some creative solutions to those barriers. An improved quality of life benefits not only seniors and their families, but all of us as we lower health care costs, keep our elders nearby and strengthen our communities.

It's a plan — stay here, age well and thrive. Or in the words of Mr. Spock, "Live long and prosper." Thanks to the committed community members who made Castle Peak a reality, and thanks to everyone engaged in the conversation on healthy aging. I hope to see you on Wednesday!

Kathy Chandler-Henry is an Eagle County commissioner.

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