Lone Tree studies aging in place

Jane Reuter
Special to Community Media of Colorado
Posted

Colorado’s soon-to-be retirees aren’t dreaming of Florida beaches and saguaro cactus. Most want to spend their twilight years right here.

And many of them will be doing so in Douglas County, which has the second fastest growing senior population in the country. Its senior numbers increased by 178 percent from 2000 to 2010.

That number will swell as members of the massive baby boomer generation retire. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of the nation will be 65 and older.

Lone Tree’s leaders are planning for the wave, and aim to make living in the city as easy as possible for its older residents. Councilmembers Sharon Van Ramshorst and Jackie Millet will host meetings on the subject at 1 and 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Lone Tree Civic Center. They’re looking for residents 60 and up to offer insight into aging-related community concerns. From there, they will establish a working group to focus on meeting the needs of future seniors.

“Based on the projections of the large increase of those over 65 in the next 10 to 30 years, we need to look at this coming change now,” Van Ramshorst said. “What are the things we need to be doing to prepare?”

Local developers already are working to meet the anticipated need, creating a medical corridor between Highlands Ranch and Parker, and constructing senior care centers and skilled nursing facilities in the Parker and Lone Tree area.

But those projects only address a segment of the population and its needs. While most seniors eventually will need health care, most also say there’s no place like home. A 2010 AARP survey showed more than three-quarters of seniors want to age in place, or stay in their current residences, as long as possible.

Van Ramshorst and her husband Lee are among them. They moved to Lone Tree in 1982, intending to stay. The couple chose an interior design that would work well for seniors, not thinking then how well it would work for them.

“A criteria in our home choice was a bedroom and full bath on the main floor in the event our parents needed to live with us,” Van Ramshorst said. “We have no plans to move and I currently see no obstacles to staying.”

Van Ramshorst said she’s not heard concern from her friends about growing older in Lone Tree. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

Potential issues range from the universal, such as bathroom doors too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs, to those specific to Lone Tree: Is the Lone Tree Recreation Center offering enough programs for seniors? Are the Lone Tree Arts Center productions scheduled at times that are convenient for young and old alike? Are all city sidewalks and streets wheelchair friendly?

“We would never want anybody moving out of our community because our community isn’t meeting their needs,” Millet said. “But it really doesn’t matter if you’re over 60. This is a piece of what makes Lone Tree a community we all want to live in.”

The Lone Tree meetings sprang from the Denver Regional Council of Government’s Boomer Bond Program, designed to help local governments support healthy aging. The program includes recommended policies and strategies, and a voluntary certification process that recognizes those efforts.

“People like the quality of life here and they want to remain,” DRCOG Senior Planner Brad Calvert said. “How the region needs to mature to meet their needs is something we all need to work on. It’s a regional issue but every community is different. We’re doing our best to encourage local governments to take notice.”