Northwest Colorado Health: Coalition focuses on meeting needs of older adults
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
According to the Colorado State Demography office, the population of adults aged 65 and older will nearly double between 2020 and 2050. In Northwest Colorado, adults over the age of 60 account for 24% of the population and contribute significantly to our economy and community. The Aging Services Coalition of Northwest Colorado is working to understand the needs of older adults in Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties.
“The Aging Services Coalition has grown to nearly 50 members representing over 30 agencies and organizations servicing older adults in our community,” said Leigh Hull, aging services coordinator with Northwest Colorado Health. “Working together, we can develop and sustain programs to allow people of all ages to remain living independently in this beautiful area of our state.”
The coalition, which was formed in April 2020, has hit the ground running and recently completed a needs assessment survey for adults and caregivers of those 60 and older. The survey, which was distributed by the members of the coalition throughout five counties via mail and available online, received over 280 responses. Feedback from survey participants will help to inform the priorities of the group going forward and allow the member organizations to work together on developing strategies in the key areas indicated by survey respondents.
The results of the survey both confirmed some assumptions of the group and highlighted key focus areas. Results showed that in Northwest Colorado, we have a very independent population, well-established senior centers and a number of programs and services readily available to older adults. A key theme from the survey results is the need to communicate those resources to the community at the point and time of need and improve education around availability of existing services.
“We want the older adult or caregiver to know who to contact for assistance when a need arises. For example, most of us are not thinking about home modifications until someone is injured from a slip and fall,” Hull said. “These results tell us that we need to begin work developing and implementing a comprehensive communication plan to provide information at the fingertips of providers and community members via print, internet and in-person. Additionally, we found there are needs for new or enhanced programs, such as providing handyman and snow-removal services, as well as assistance with coordinating transportation and providing nonmedical chore services.
“We have four workgroups with some very knowledgeable team members focused on key areas of communications, housing, socialization/isolation and transportation,” Hull said. “Each group is studying not only our survey results but other relevant studies and information to identify initiatives to bridge gaps and barriers to services.”
The coalition will identify three to five initiatives to take on and implement in these focus areas by fall of 2021. From there, recommendations will be taken to county, municipality and civic leaders to engage their support in prioritizing the needs of our growing population of citizens age 60 plus throughout Northwest Colorado.
“Northwest Colorado Health believes that every person deserves the chance to achieve their best health, and this very much includes the growing aging population in our region,” said Stephanie Einfeld, CEO of Northwest Colorado Health. “We are proud of the aging services we provide through our Home Services and Aging Well program, and also understand that in order to best allow residents to age in place, increases in community awareness, education and support are essential. Lack of resources and support for our aging community is a valley-wide concern of ours, and we are excited to share these assessment results in order to further community collaboration and system wide evolution.”
The Aging Services Coalition of Northwest Colorado consists of individual community members and senior services organizations and is open to anyone in Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties. The goal of the coalition is to identify service gaps for older adults, identify and replicate outstanding programs and become a unified voice for aging services in the region. This project is made possible by a generous grant from the Next Fifty Initiative.
Jaclyn McDonald is marketing coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at email@example.com or 970-871-7642.
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