About a dozen seniors attended a Nov. 15 Highlands Ranch Metro District study session, a public meeting that precedes a monthly board meeting, to send a message: they want a senior center. “As soon …
About a dozen seniors attended a Nov. 15 Highlands Ranch Metro District study session, a public meeting that precedes a monthly board meeting, to send a message: they want a senior center.
“As soon as they could get it, we would start using it,” said Karen Burch, 68. “There is no question.”
In 2015, the percentage of Highlands Ranch residents 65 and older was 10.2 percent, about three times what it was in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Earlier this year, to address the growing number of seniors in the community, the metro district started a senior feasibility study that would compile results from a focus group of seniors, stakeholder meetings and an open house for seniors in August.
Ballard King and Associates, a consulting firm behind the study, presented a draft of its findings to the metro district board of directors at the recent study session, held at the metro district’s building on Plaza Drive. Feedback indicates that the population of seniors in Highlands Ranch is on the rise and more amenities, including a designated senior space, are wanted.
Having a senior center is a priority for Burch, who moved to Highlands Ranch from Oregon a year ago. She used to frequent her community’s senior center up to four times a week, where she would exercise, eat lunch, play games and socialize with adults her age.
“I’ve missed it,” Burch said, “a lot.”
Challenges of meeting the needs of seniors include establishing a physical location of a senior center, funding a senior center, developing viable partners and establishing a lead agency to coordinate senior services, according to the firm’s report.
Currently, Highlands Ranch has three main programs for seniors: the metro district’s senior outreach program, fitness offerings from the Highlands Ranch Community Association and the Highlands Ranch Senior Club, which has grown to 500 participating members in its 13 years of existence.
Made up of people ages 50 and older, the club meets monthly at the Southridge Recreation Center for a luncheon, cards and bingo. Sometimes they meet in the auditorium, which maxes out at 325 people, depending on the setup. Other times, they meet in a room that has limited access for wheelchairs and walkers.
“We are growing rapidly,” said the club’s president, Ron Winter. “It wasn’t that long ago 80, 90 (people) was a big crowd. Now if we have below 120 at a luncheon, we are disappointed.”
The consulting firm outlined an action plan that begins with the metro district committing to increase senior services and developing a timeline. The senior center would start out in a temporary leased facility. Three years later, the senior center would move into a permanent facility. Options include a standalone building or an addition to a current building in Highlands Ranch, such as one of the four existing recreation centers. The cost would range from $740,000 for a temporary facility — not including operational costs — to upwards of $10 million for a stand-alone facility.
Metro district staff and board members questioned costs associated with the action plan and the feasibility of using a temporary facility or adding to an existing recreation center.
“A temporary facility would require a huge investment to make it workable,” said Carrie Ward, the metro district’s director of parks, recreation and open space.
Next steps for the consulting firm include integrating comments and suggestions into the existing report and presenting a finalized report to the board at a Nov. 28 metro district board meeting beginning at 6 p.m.
Several of the seniors in attendance at the study session will be at the next meeting, they said. Some expressed disappointment in how long it has taken for a community the size of Highlands Ranch to get a senior center.
Sue Frommelt, 60, pointed out that many people who would utilize the center spend more time alone and don’t have as many friends to do activities with.
“The potential is there,” Frommelt said. “Just give us a chance,”
Findings of the senior feasibility study
The senior population in Highlands Ranch will continue to rise, reports Ballard King and Associates, the consulting firm behind the senior feasibility study. The number of adults ages 55 is expected to grow from roughly 14,700 in 2010 to 26,300 in 2022 — about a 79 percent increase. The consulting firm predicts that in 2050, there will be 40,997 adults ages 55 years and older, nearly double the current number.
The firm found that there is a high demand among seniors for a center of their own. Of 63 seniors who gave input at the open house, 60 said they wanted a senior center. Of 71 seniors that responded to a question about current services in the community offered to seniors, 69 said they want to see an increase of services that provide socialization opportunities, trips and events and active recreation.