Before the start of the Oct. 6 program at the Paonia Library, librarian Laura Lee Yates removed the clock from the wall because it was ticking too loudly. It was a suitable metaphor for the evening's topic, "Aging in Place," also the name of the group giving the presentation.
Delta County's population has a median age of 47.3 years, "significantly" higher than average compared to the rest of the state, according to statistics shared by group members. In 2013, 22 percent of the county's residents were 65 or older. Those numbers are expected to rise quickly in the coming decade. Statistics also showed that people 65 and older have a 70 percent chance of going into a long-term care facility.
Aging in Place seeks to meet the needs of the local aging community, said group member Dave Knutson, who referred to it as "aging locally." At the same time they can help support and build the economy. AIP was formed last summer and currently includes about 20 citizens of varying backgrounds at or near retirement age who are dedicating time and resources to addressing the needs of the area's elderly, and to supplementing the options already in place.
Their one "unifying activity" is that members have all been a caregiver.
One common desire of the group, said Kathy Thompson, is "to make things better for ourselves and the next generation." They also seek to inform people of the options currently available to the elderly, to reduce the odds of needing long-term care, and to create more opportunities for people to remain in their homes for as long as possible.
Lynn Mattingly spoke of the new "Golden Girls Movement," a network of women who are creating their own shared living situations. "It's a solution that makes sense financially," said Mattingly, who is "slowly creating a shared living space" in her home.
This generation has to create its own options, said Mattingly, and there are many. What's happening is exciting, she said, but what's really exciting is that boomers, those born after World War II until the late 1950s to early 1960s, depending on whom you ask, are already creating those options.
Rather than wait for disasters and life changes that result in dependence, it's better to plan for aging, said Marjorie True, a retired nurse now with Hospice. True said boomers can manage their lives well, "but once in the eighth decade, things change," said True, who, at 75, still maintains five acres of land.
A video on the "Village-to-Village" network and Beacon Hill in Boston gave more of an urban picture of what's possible, but also gave a glimpse of what goes on in these tight-knit communities.
Cohousing, also known as an "intentional community," is already here. The group behind the Silver Leaf cohousing development, based on a concept founded by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Surrett in 1998, expects to break ground on a project in Paonia in 2016. While it's targeted toward those 65 and older, its "Universal Design" concept can accommodate all ages from cradle to grave, and considers life changes in its design process, according to its planners.
In cohousing situations, which originated in Denmark, ongoing relationships and other factors create challenges, and inhabitants need to know how to deal with situations and conflicts. "It can be difficult," said True. Rules must also be abided by and can be strict. Applicants must be deemed a good match for the community, and may be required to complete some training.
Access to services also must be considered. Knutson said in an interview that the group envisions an online resource along the lines of Airbnb that gives information on providers and allows for reviews. Those reviews would go both ways and benefit customers and service providers, said Knutson.
Providers would be paid directly. Services could include anything from lawn care and house cleaning to transportation, nursing and in-home care. The need for these services could also provide jobs and living wages for the younger demographics.
Knutson noted that the group is geared toward creating a network for people not eligible for Medicaid, because those services already exist. Their current focus is on those living in Paonia and surrounding areas.
The group hopes to begin conversations and has no intention of negating any existing services or organizations, but rather aims to supplement them, said Thompson. There is "sufficient need" for all parties to play a part.
Aging in Place will meet from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the library. For more information on shared housing, contact Lynn Mattingly at 527-4414; for cohousing information, call Marjorie True at 433-1856, and for more on AIP, call Dave Knutson at 527-3969.