Magazine article Policy & Practice

Aging Well in Jefferson County, Colorado

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Aging Well in Jefferson County, Colorado

Article excerpt

By 2030, the number of people 60 and older is expected to double in the state of Colorado, and especially in Jefferson County, the third most populous county in the state.

In spring 2008, the Jefferson County Department of Human Services embarked on a large-scale strategic planning process called "Aging Well." The project was intended to bring many stakeholders together to collaborate on how best the county could prepare for the projected doubling of the senior population over the next two decades. The ultimate vision for all who've participated in this process is to see Jefferson County be a thriving community for aging well.

Some of the initial findings included:

* The very old and poor are populations of concern--mostly women in both groups.

* Most "older adults" would prefer to age in their communities and there is a critical shortage of affordable housing and other services.

* Communities are not set up for successful aging.

* Aging baby boomers (those born 1946 to 1964) will only make the shortages more severe.

* Funding for all services has not kept pace with needs.

Shared Governance

As a result, a group of experts in the aging field was invited to join a Leadership Committee for the Aging Well project. They represented housing, legal issues, congregate meal sites and home delivery, transportation, planning and zoning, law enforcement, recreation centers, libraries, health and mental health professionals, and caregivers, as well as local citizens. From this group the following six workgroups were formed, totaling about 100 participants:

* Basic Needs

* Caregiving and Supportive Services

* Health, Mental Health, Wellness, and Prevention

* Housing

* Social and Civic Engagement

* Transportation and Mobility/Local Coordinating Council

The committees identified appropriate decision-makers (e.g., mayors, city councils, planning and zoning departments, etc.) to approach in order to implement some of the promising models. A first of its kind Aging Well Summit was held in June 2010. A community assessment survey of 3,750 residents over the age of 60 was administered and analyzed. Reports from the survey were provided to the county as a whole and for each of its larger municipalities.

The Leadership Committee for the project comprised professionals from all areas of senior issues including housing, legal issues, nutrition programs, transportation, planning and zoning, law enforcement, and citizens. The Leadership Committee formulated vision and mission statements and formed subcommittees which tackled sub-topics within the main workgroup topic.

The workgroups began by defining and narrowing their topic areas. There was a great deal of information for each topic area and it was important for the workgroups to define their topic and focus on the most important issues. The workgroups found the task at hand to be overwhelming as Jefferson County does have many resources for seniors; however, the gaps quickly became apparent.

Results

Although the project is still in its early stages of implementation, key accomplishments across all major areas of focus as well as positive stories from individual clients suggest that the effort is already having an impact on the community.

Each of the six workgroups has identified multiple major accomplishments. The following is a small sample of those accomplishments:

* Held the first Jefferson County Senior Law Day on June 11, 2011; this has become an annual event hosted by the District Attorney's Office

* Co-located the Health Passport Program at the Department of Human Services

* Assembling and will distribute Emergency Preparedness Kits to isolated seniors

* Developing a strategic plan on how to remove parts of Jefferson County from the Medically Underserved Area designation

* Reearched the Village Housing Model in the United States and supported an individual looking to create a Village in south Jefferson County based on the Washington Park Cares Model; this Village is up and running and is doing quite well

* Began developing a Housing Matrix to evaluate and rank qualities relevant to successful senior communities

* Hired an intern to do research on Accessory Dwelling Units as an option for senior living. …

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