Serving seniors to help them thrive
Routt County Council on Aging works to support seniors by providing meals, social and educational events, transportation and other services.
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There’s often a misconception that the Routt County Council on Aging is a government entity. In fact, it is a nonprofit organization that works to serve the needs of senior citizens in Routt County. The Council on Aging depends heavily on community grants and donations to keep its programs running.
In order to age in place — meaning we can choose for ourselves where we live and age — the right resources must be in place within a community.
Aging in place often refers to aging in one’s own home, living as independently as possible. For some seniors, physical or cognitive decline makes it difficult to live independently, but the Routt County Council on Aging reports that even seniors who face these challenges would still prefer to live at home.
Routt County Council on Aging is a nonprofit that serves the over-60 population in the county. It not only provides important services for seniors, but also steers them toward other resources in the community that can meet additional needs.
“This ‘guide service’, so to speak, gets seniors where they need to go,” said Meg Tully, executive director. “Without Routt County Council on Aging, I would venture to say that more seniors in our community would go hungry; more seniors would be less active physically, which leads to poor health; more seniors would be less connected socially, and isolation leads to depression; and many seniors would have no means to get to where they need to go, since other transportation options are costly or are on fixed routes.”
Here are some of the ways the Council on Aging is working to serve local seniors so they can continue to enjoy this community while aging in place.
Meals for seniors
As we age, we’re more vulnerable to malnutrition — not only due to the physical and cognitive changes, but also because of our home environments.
These and other challenges often lead seniors to choose easy over nutritious when preparing meals.
Routt County Council on Aging provides two meal services: Group meals and Meals on Wheels. These services not only help seniors with proper nourishment, they also provide seniors in need with a low-cost, healthy meal option.
“Each menu is analyzed by a registered dietitian to ensure that all meals meet strict dietary requirements,” Tully said.
Group meals are offered in three locations: Steamboat, Hayden and Oak Creek. More than 300 seniors were served 8,704 meals in 2018, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.
“The meal program helps give me a social life, especially in the winter,” said Charlotte Allen, who attends lunch regularly in Steamboat.
Another client, Gary Anderson, believes that some seniors are forced to make a choice between meals or medicines, given the fixed incomes upon which many seniors live. He feels that the senior lunches help keep him alive.
“Without RCCOA lunches, I’d have to learn how to cook or go out to restaurants a lot more, which would be much more expensive and less nutritional,” he said.
Meals on Wheels home-delivered meals are delivered by volunteers to seniors that are home-bound long-term or to those recently discharged from the hospital who can’t get out and about for a while.
“An important aspect of our Meals on Wheels service is that our driver essentially conducts a ‘’wellness check’ on the seniors we serve, making sure they are OK and reporting to us if they are not,” Tully said. “This is very important, as many times our driver is the only person a home-bound senior sees all day.”
The suggested fee for meals is $3, and the Council on Aging does not turn away anyone due to inability to pay.
Seniors often face periods of loneliness, isolation and grief as their friends and loved ones also face aging-related challenges such as chronic disease, dementia and death. This makes it even more important to utilize services available in the community that bring seniors together for socially engaging and mentally stimulating activities.
Routt County Council on Aging provides field trips for seniors to places such as Hahns Peak and Steamboat Lake, Stagecoach Reservoir, Encampment (Wyoming), fall foliage-viewing trips around the county and more, Tully said.
Other social and education services include:
• Art classes where seniors learn how to paint with oils or craft a ceramic mug
• Lunch Speaker Series every Monday in Steamboat featuring presentations of peoples’ travels or other educational information about what’s going on in the community or where to locate the resources they need.
• Bingo and Bridge draw huge crowds every week!
Routt County Council on Aging partners with Northwest Colorado Health on low-cost exercise classes and tai chi for seniors. The Council also received a grant from the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation to offer the county’s first Matter of Balance class, which teaches seniors how to keep fit and gain confidence so they can keep doing the things they love, Tully said.
“We also hold annual parties that draw close to 100 people, such as our March for Meals open house, Spring Fling, summer BBQs and Holiday Party,” she added.
The Council provides rides to lunch, exercise, the bank, shopping, medical appointments and other errands as requested.
Tully said the Council provided 4,407 rides to seniors throughout the county in 2018. The suggested fee for rides is $2 per way within Steamboat city limits and $3 per way outside Steamboat city limits, and the Council does not turn away anyone due to inability to pay.
“I always take the van in the winter, when it’s more dangerous to drive,” Anderson said. “Not only is taking the van safer for me, it also is less expensive because I don’t have car upkeep and gas costs.”
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