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ARCHIVED  November 1, 1997

Aging population requires enhanced housing, services

The aging business is big business.As the population of this country ages in general, and as retirees choose Colorado in particular, anticipation of a large population with special housing needs is driving the construction market.
In addition, there is a growing field of support services that specialize in geriatric concerns, and eventually there will be an increased need for personnel to staff the newly built facilities.
Of the three elements that are evolving to care for an aging population — housing, support services and staff — facilities rank as the major growth industry. Not only are the raw numbers up for the construction of traditional nursing homes and assisted-living units, but the varieties of care offered within these broad outlines are proliferating as well.
Colorado Springs Construction, in conjunction with Life Care Centers of America, is building assisted-living facilities paired with nursing homes as quickly as it can in Northern Colorado.
The picture in Wyoming is much the same. Jayo Building of Idaho has planned construction for assisted-living facilities in Cheyenne, Laramie and Casper. Emeritus, a publicly traded national company, is building in Cheyenne as well.
The projects that follow more-traditional patterns of independent, assisted and nursing facilities compete with amenities, price and levels of care. As a result, there is great variety even within a single category.
According to the Larimer County Senior Housing List, as of September 1997, there are seven independent-living facilities with roughly 500 available units ranging from private rooms to condominiums. Services vary, but most include meals.
Twenty-five assisted-living facilities have opened locally, offering everything from semiprivate rooms to apartment suites. Those who live in these facilities require no nursing care but do need assistance with dressing, getting about and managing medication.
And, finally, in Larimer County alone, there are 12 nursing homes (with roughly 1,200 beds) where there is a nurse available 24 hours a day.
And that˜s just the beginning. In addition to the burst of construction in conventional housing for the aging, there are some new variations on some old themes. BeeHive Homes, a franchise wholly owned by Dave Clarkson and Jay Seaver of Greeley, has developed the concept of small living units located in residential neighborhoods.
Each ranch-style home includes 10 bedrooms with private bath. Residents share a living room, dining room and kitchen. New units will have a beauty shop included.
Kathy Gardener, director of residential living, said these facilities are ideal for those who might need help with bathing or dressing, but who do not need the more skilled-care of a board and care facility. An additional appeal is the neighborhood quality of these homes. They are landscaped to fit in and reduce the sense of institutional sameness that can prevail in even the best of the larger facilities.
"To qualify for living in a BeeHive home, the resident must be able to get around, be continent, and be able to feed him or herself," she said. "We help with medication but encourage independence."
That the owners see great potential in this concept is evidenced by the fact that they plan to build 100 homes in the next three years in Greeley, Fort Collins, Windsor, Lakewood, Fort Morgan, and Johnstown.Support services
With the proliferation of facilities of all sizes offering many variations on care, there is a parallel, but not so quickly growing, need for support services to help families sort out the options. The calls for assistance that Katie Mason gets at the Larimer County Office on Aging usually come from adult children of aging parents and begin with "I don˜t know where to start."
"What we do in this office is show people what some of the options are," Mason said. "We publish a Services Guide for Older Adults in Larimer County and the Larimer County Senior Housing List.
However, this information is often overwhelming, particularly if the child is living at a distance and has no first-hand information to match up with a list of beds and services. Plus, these lists do not apply to the large numbers of people who choose to stay in their own homes but require assistance ranging from housekeeping, yard work and transportation to 24-hour nursing care,
When callers need help sorting through the unfamiliar and quickly changing territory of caring for a parent or other relative, the office refers the family to a private case manager who may be retained for a fee or to Catholic Charities, which offers free case management to those in need, "I help people sort out their options," said Consultants for Aging Families˜ Nancy McCambridge, a registered nurse and licensed geriatric care manager. "I prefer to get the generations together so that all the members of the family system can work toward a solution. I am the aging parent˜s advocate."
As with many other kinds of counseling scenarios, people seek out assistance when all their problem-solving skills no longer work. McCambridge points out that children often feel guilty if they cannot tend to a parent˜s physical needs directly. Moreover, it comes as a great surprise to baby boomers — now adult children — when their parents are simply not interested in moving in with them. The emotions connected with the loss of independence and control are complex, and most families have no practice in dealing with them.
It is telling that while there is an ever-growing list of private facilities designed to profit from an aging population, there are few private and public agencies available to help families sort through the possibilities for care, much less the attending emotional quandaries. Not all facilities provide equally good care, and so there will be an increasing demand for experienced people to serve as watchful, surrogate relatives.
The worry here is that it takes longer to educate and train one excellent case manager than it does to build an equally excellent BeeHive home. If the numbers of facilities grow beyond the ability of support services to sort through them, families in need of good counsel may be left to the overworked or the unqualified.
Related to a potential shortage of support services created by the growth of living facilities for the aging is a potential shortage of staff. Traditionally, the pay for workers in nursing homes and other retirement facilities has been low, and a new generation of highly trained physicians˜ assistants and nurses with baccalaureate degrees may not be attracted to the field.
In addition, the cost of living in Colorado is high. To date, the Front Range has depended on its magnetic lifestyle appeal to draw qualified people willing to work for substandard wages. But caring for an aging population is not exactly like waiting tables or selling running shoes, and it remains to be seen whether the supply of people with the compassion and patience to enjoy working with an aging generation can keep up with the new demand generated by for-profit facilities.

The aging business is big business.As the population of this country ages in general, and as retirees choose Colorado in particular, anticipation of a large population with special housing needs is driving the construction market.
In addition, there is a growing field of support services that specialize in geriatric concerns, and eventually there will be an increased need for personnel to staff the newly built facilities.
Of the three elements that are evolving to care for an aging population — housing, support services and staff — facilities rank as the major growth industry. Not only are the raw numbers up…

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