Ronald and Marilyn Levenson, both in their 70s, wanted to retire in Highlands Ranch, where they had lived for 10 years with their three children, now grown.
But when it came time to downsize, the couple couldn’t find a place in their price range. They ended up with a condo in nearby Lone Tree, where prices for homes are typically higher than in Highlands Ranch, but more options in types of housing exist. In Highlands Ranch, homes tend to be geared toward families.
“There aren’t enough affordable condos that you can buy in Highlands Ranch — that’s the biggest mistake,” Marilyn, 71, said. “We didn’t want to move from this area.”
The Levensons represent a rapidly growing demographic in Highlands Ranch — the baby boomer and aging adult population who want to stay in the community but is finding the resources necessary to support them are scarce.
In 2014, the population of Highlands Ranch residents 65 years and older was 7.8 percent, slightly more than double the number from 2000, according to the U.S. Census. In 2014, countywide, the Census counted 9.9 percent of people 65 and older.
By 2030, the Douglas County Senior Initiative, a partnership of Douglas Countygovernment agencies that represents 302,000 citizens, projects that about one in four residents countywide will be 60 years or older — the nation’s most dramatic growth for that population.
But the amenities that make living easier for seniors — such as accessible and affordable transportation and affordable housing — are limited in Highlands Ranch and throughout Douglas County, according to a 2013 Douglas County Senior Initiative survey of 648 seniors age 56 and older.
“There are needs expressed across the entire population every time we do a survey,” said Jennifer Eby, Douglas County’s community and resource service manager. “They want to be able to age in place and have services available to make that possible.”
“Douglas County,” said Suzanne Hartley, 70, who moved to Highlands Ranch when she was about 34 years old, “isn’t prepared for us.”
Highlands Ranch seniors say they also need a dedicated space for recreational and social activities. Although the community has senior organizations that provide social interaction, such as a Senior Outreach Program, a Senior Club and a 50 and Better activity club, a senior center would create a place to grow and expand programs that would bring more seniors together, they say.
Experts in the gerontology field call the explosion in the aging population the “silver tsunami,” said Jodie McCann, senior outreach coordinator for the Highlands Ranch Metro District.
Hartley has seen the wave coming.
“I’ve noticed in the last (couple of) years that people are moving here and staying here,” Hartley said, “and people are coming here for family.”
That family draw, along with more and more adults who are “aging in place,” a term that describes seniors who can live independently on their own, are two primary reasons for the soaring senior populationin the county, Eby said.
Among McCann’s responsibilities is to educate aging adults on how to get involved and plan for the future.
“Don’t let aging happen to you,” she tells them. “Choose how you will happen to aging.”
But to do that well, the community needs supporting resources.
Highlands Ranch was planned to accommodate the family lifestyle, McCann said. And “what’s good for older people is also good for younger people.”