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 …
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3.3 percent: People ages 65 and older in Highlands Ranch in 2000
6.6 percent: People ages 65 and older in Highlands Ranch in 2010
7.8 percent: People ages 65 and older in Highlands Ranch in 2014
178 percent: Growth of the senior population in Douglas County over the past decade
24 percent: People in Douglas County who will be 60 years or older in 2030
Source: U.S. Census and Douglas County
How old you must be to qualify as a senior differs depending on the source:
50: Eligible for AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)
55: Can receive a senior discount at most McDonald’s locations
60: The cutoff for a senior as defined by the Free Dictionary by Farlex
62: Can receive a $10 lifetime “America the Beautiful Senior Pass” through Rocky Mountain National Park
65: Eligible for Medicare
The Douglas County Senior Initiative was established in 2012 by the Partnership of Douglas County Governments to focus on the county’s rapidly growing population of people ages 60 and older.
The Partnership of Douglas County Governments — established in 2002 — includes representatives from Castle Rock, Parker, Lone Tree, Larkspur, Castle Pines, the Douglas County School District, Douglas County Libraries and the Highlands Ranch Metro District.
It represents 302,000 Douglas County citizens and collaboratively works on “issues, projects and programs for the greater good of Douglas County.” Members meet regularly to understand community needs and work toward solutions.
During 2013, the initiative’s committee — made up of one representative from each partnership — surveyed 648 people ages 56 and older and 68 senior service providers, and held 13 listening tours throughout the county to determine “how well they (service providers) communicate with seniors and how well they partner with other senior-serving providers.”
Source: Douglas County
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.”
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