Financial Pressures and Solutions For Colorado’s Growing Senior Population

The number of older adults in Colorado as a percentage of population is rising. By 2040, more than 24% of the total population of Colorado will be age 60 or older. At the same time, costs associated with aging are rising. One solution is to increase the affordable resources that make it possible to age at home.

“There are thousands of seniors in the Denver metro area who struggle daily to afford food and rent,” says John Zabawa, President & CEO of Seniors’ Resource Center. “Many have no family support; they are overwhelmed by changes in insurance and health care, and they struggle to access needed services.”

Housing costs are rising and affordable alternatives are in low supply. The cost of assisted living in Colorado is estimated at nearly $40,000 a year, which is more than the average annual retirement income in the US.3 For a caregiver supporting a family member, this is more than half the average per capita income in Colorado.4 Annually, assisted living costs are increasing faster than inflation.5

Most people prefer to age at home. An AARP survey found that “87 percent of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age.”6 Living at home or with loved ones is far less expensive and the option the vast majority of people want. The resources needed to make this possible, while far less expensive than assisted living, are still not always affordable to those on a fixed income.

Expert John Zabawa has witnessed the evolving needs of seniors and has developed solutions over the past 35 years as executive director of the Seniors’ Resource Center. “This is a vulnerable group that is under significant financial pressure,” Zabawa observes. “And our communities are unprepared to meet the escalating needs of this rapidly growing population.”

Many factors contribute to the challenge of financial insecurity faced by older adults. Seniors’ Resource Center (SRC) plays a role in coping with some of the factors, specifically by making it possible for those with limited resources to age in place.

Housing

SRC’s Role

Seniors’ Resource Center makes it possible for more people to age at home or with loved ones for as long as possible. SRC provides a range of programs and also serves as a referral source, connecting people to resources in the community.

  • SRC provided services directly to over 24,000 people in 2015, including adult day care, in-home care, deep cleaning, minor home repair, care management, mental health support and transportation.
  • Care Managers assess the more complicated situations, even meeting with clients in their homes. Seniors call with issues ranging from inability to pay for heat, to needing minor home repairs or mental health support.
  • Most of SRC services are covered by grants and donations, making them accessible to those with fixed incomes.

Transportation
Transportation costs are rising. A DRCOG study found that 26% of seniors had trouble finding affordable and safe transportation.

  • Participants consistently ranked transportation in the top three when asked to prioritize services most critical to helping them age at home, the study reported.
  • Many low-income and homeless seniors told DRCOG that public transportation and special transit services were the only ways they could access medical services and food banks. (http://denverregion.co.networkofcare.org/content/client/965/2011-2015AreaPlanonAging.pdf)
  • More than 50 percent of non-drivers over age 65 do not leave home most days, partly because of a lack of transportation options. Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices, December 2011

SRC’s Role

  • SRC provided more than 131,000 rides for over 3,000 seniors last year. These rides are often to vital appointments to health professionals or to fill basic needs like grocery shopping.
  • Access to transportation is a crucial issue for those who can otherwise live at home, but can no longer drive. SRC’s service — uniquely designed for seniors — is “door through door,” with drivers assisting riders from their homes and into their destinations.
  • Multiple vehicle options are available to meet disability needs.
  • Demand for this service is growing and SRC is currently in the process of expanding routes.

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