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Over the next 15 years, the number of people 60 or older in Colorado is expected to more than double, boosting the need for long-term care and services that enable older adults to live independently in their homes.
Keeping needy senior citizens in their homes will require an expansion of services like transportation, meals-on-wheels, counseling and nutrition education, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
To meet that need, the agency is asking for an additional $4 million next year, which would raise state funding for Area Agencies on Aging to $21.3 million.
“Do we have the workforce, the infrastructure to support that? Like any business, we need to plan ahead to determine how we are going to deal with this and maintain the highest quality support we can provide without doing damage to the state budget,” Semro said.
AARP and Area Agencies on Aging, which are both backing the increased budget proposal, are also calling for creation of a study group to identify and plan for dealing with long-term issues involving an aging population.
“You wouldn’t go out on a road trip without a map, and this is going to happen in Colorado no matter what. Shouldn’t we have a map so we can travel well?” said Kelli Fritts, associate state director of advocacy for AARP of Colorado.
The department is also requesting $2.2 million over the next five years to contract with a state university or college to train up to 85 qualified social workers with expertise in elder care by 2020.
By 2030 almost one-quarter of Colorado’s population will be older than 60, with the largest increase of graying residents in Douglas, Boulder and Jefferson counties.
The money is funneled through 16 Area Agencies on Aging that contract with local nonprofits.
Even as the older population is growing, the AAAs are having trouble keeping up with current demand, said Rich Mauro, senior legislative and policy analyst for the Denver Regional Council of Governments, one of the AAAs.
Someone who qualifies for home-delivered meals, nursing or handyman help sometimes must wait up to two months before they can be provided, Mauro said.
It is far cheaper for an aging person to live at home than in an assisted-care facility or nursing home.
The median private pay hourly rate for a homemaker to provide cleaning and other services in Colorado is $21, according to the Genworth 2014 Cost of Care Survey. The median rate for a health aide is $22.
The median annual cost of a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted-care facility in the state is $39,750, and for a nursing home it is $79,205.
“There is still a mentality out there of institutionalization,” said Fritts. “Nobody wants to do that, but there is still that image in people’s minds that you go to a nursing home.
“But if you just need a home-delivered meal and you can stay in your home, that is a better solution. Or maybe you need grab bars — that is a heck of a lot cheaper than a nursing home,” Fritts said.