Aging in Northern Colorado

Folks in Larimer County, Colorado (including Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park) got things going on Friday with a rousing Summit on Aging that drew 170 citizens. The Foundation on Aging is serving as a catalyst and convener to bring to the table a discussion of the changing demographic and its impact on the cities and towns of the county. Afternoon groups brainstormed issues, themes and potential opportunities around transportation, supportive services, housing, and health care.

Fort Collins has a different development pattern, it appears, than Boulder, where a “green belt” provided a full-stop to development in favor of infill opportunities and a denser, more urban pattern of growth. While the downtown Fort Collins area is compact and quite beautiful, as Boulder, there is a good deal of surburban sprawl and, essentially, what may become strip development all the way south to Denver. As in Boulder, a major university (Colorado State) is in close proximity to the downtown area, certainly adding to its vitality and urbanity.

As most know, the growth boundary in Boulder has contributed greatly to the high cost of living there. It must be prohibitive for most lower income seniors, though the city has done a great job of requiring % low income units in new development, enabling lower income individuals to stay in the heart of the city. I am not aware of a similar requirement in Fort Collins. I was thrilled to come upon the Northern Hotel in Fort Collins, a striking white, art deco building that sits on a sharp corner downtown. Great place for senior housing I thought. So I ventured into the lobby and, to my pleasant surprise, was told that, indeed, The Northern Hotel was rehabbed for income eligible seniors. Yet, looking around the downtown at the totally gentrified neighborhood of fine shops, galleries, coffee parlors, restaurants, bike shops, etc., I suspected that the low income seniors living in the Northern Hotel are essentially priced out of participating in the life of the downtown center. As Starbucks occupies the ground floor of the Northern Hotel, I wandered in and asked the barista if they offered a discount on coffee for the seniors living upstairs. “Well, no, we don’t, he replied.” It wouldn’t be a decision we could make in this store. It would have to go all the way up to ‘corporate’.” Something wrong with this picture, I would say.

I was  impressed by the citizens in Larimer County. It likely deserves its reputation as a great place to retire. With the citizen activism I observed, it’s going to even better, for seniors of all abilities and incomes.

For a bit of news on the project, my slide presentation, etc., visit http://www.agingindiana.org

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