As Aspen Ages, Community Leaders Look for Housing Solutions

Jul 9, 2013

A clearer picture is emerging of a senior living community in Basalt. Last month, the organizers of the massive project presented detailed plans to Basalt’s Town Council. The senior campus would include multiple buildings on 18 acres just down the road from the local high school.

Organizers say such a development is badly needed in an area where the senior age demographic is expected to skyrocket in coming years. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Aspen resident Ken Canfield recently traded his walker for cane. It’s a step toward healing after a bad fall in his driveway earlier this year. When it was snowy, the 88-year-old slipped and fell on his hip.

“I couldn’t get up, I sort of slithered down the driveway and got my wife to the door and she called the hospital," he says.

Canfield was flown to a Denver hospital where he spent three weeks. Now, back at home, he and his wife have made modifications to accommodate his recovery.

"One of the problems in moving into the house, I’m pretty much confined to one floor."

Kris Marsh heads the Aspen Valley Foundation. It's the non profit behind a proposed senior community in Basalt.

"It answers a lot of needs for a group of people who would live in this kind of facility because it is a way you can age in place," she says.

It’s officially called a continuing care retirement community and she says it’s meant for people like Canfield, where seniors can age in one place, moving from cottages and apartments to assisted living. Because this kind of facility doesn’t exist in the Roaring Fork Valley, Marsh says people have moved away.

She thinks 200 people are interested enough to move in. There’s room for 150 residents. There’s no doubt the senior population in the area is growing. Already, twenty percent of Pitkin County’s population is age 60 and older. Marty Aimes is with Pitkin County Senior Services.

"People are coming here, retiring, who maybe have been coming here for years for cultural or skiing or other activities, and then we have the people who have been here, who want to stay here," she says.

The County’s senior population is expected to more than double in size by 2030. Colorado as a whole will see a slower pace of growth.

Richard Shaw is the project manager for the Basalt development. He points to renderings of senior cottages on the walls of an office building in downtown Aspen. This is where prospective residents of the community will come to get signed up.

The community would be open to any senior in the Valley, but organizers estimate residents in Aspen and the mid-valley will mostly fill the space. But, will it be affordable? Again, Kris Marsh.

"We do have an accommodation for people to move into the independent living units on a rental basis, so there will be hybrid entrance fees and rental situation contracts, for people who have been in deed restricted housing for 30 years, they’ve worked, now they’ve retired, they have the ability to move in because they don’t have equities from their house," she says.

She says she’s unsure what entrance fees will be at this point, but they will go toward the entire cost of the project, which is $65 million. Donations, municipal bonds and loans are paying for the rest.

At Ken Canfield’s house in Aspen, he explains the changes he made after he fell on his hip. He’s been an ardent supporter of the senior community in Basalt, and says he’d move there in a heartbeat.

"We love this place, we’ll certainly miss not being here but the things you have to do and take care of, they’re getting harder and harder to handle, so we’re going to be one of the first knocking on the door down there."

The Town of Basalt is expected to start reviewing the final plan for the senior community later this summer. If approved, construction could start in spring of 2015.