Voices on Aging

[February 2021 | By Marilyn Huseby, Colorado Retirement Services]

As a part of Older Coloradans Week, every county in Colorado has a focus on current needs for their demographic. Especially relevant for Montrose County, considered a rural area, is the Webinar, Voices on Aging, to be held February 9th from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Over 30 percent of Montrose population is over 60. And that population is growing, as older Coloradans flee big cities and settle here, hoping for a safer, healthier, quieter lifestyle. For most, it’s a good fit. With great weather recreational and cultural opportunities, Montrose is a perfect community for retirement.

One of the benefits of retirement is having the time to volunteer to help others. There are lots of opportunities for volunteerism here, with more than 250 non-profits in the area. Over 200 seniors give their time to the Montrose Memorial Hospital, the Montrose Regional Library District, and Sharing Ministries Food Bank, alone.

Time Bank of the Rockies (TBR) and the Golden Circle Seniors (GSS), which manages the Montrose Pavilion Senior Center, together with Region 10 Area Agency on Aging also help to support this community’s values of how seniors freely share their time.

Time Bank volunteers exchange units of time rather than dollars for services rendered. [related story] Members record volunteered hours to their time bank account, then they can spend their earned time exchanging it for help such as home repairs, gardening, or computer help. TBR also provides opportunities for socialization, something needed by seniors who often become increasingly isolated (especially true for recent transplants and those negatively impacted by Covid).

Senior Center volunteers also enjoy sharing services and socializing. They help with week-day lunches and twice-monthly lunch programs. Other activities primarily run by volunteers include bingo, exercise, crafts, cards, dance, and group excursions.

Because of the pandemic, and fear of spreading Covid, the Senior center has been closed since March of last year. Its closure exacerbates the many pressing issues that face all older people—human connection. The Senior Center provides, not just a hot meal, but personal socialization. Right now, that connection is broken. Aging voices are silent.

At one time, the Senior Center’s grant-funded program, Adopt a Senior, delivered hot meals to homebound seniors, providing in-person communication as well as a hot meal. When the grant funding ended, Volunteers of America, an organization dedicated to support and services for seniors, began delivering frozen meals through the Senior CommUnity Meals Program twice a month to the homebound seniors. Unfortunately, twice-monthly social contact and a frozen meal cannot replace the physical and psychological benefits of daily hot meals and a chance to visit, however briefly, with a lonely senior.

The program, “Soup’s On,” has helped to take up the slack. Region 10 received a grant to help feed homebound seniors, which has been extended by two more months and the food is being purchased from Mountain Rose Catering. Hot soup and a roll will be delivered twice a week by volunteer drivers and coordinated by Time Bank member Betty Haynes, who is 96 years old! She also coordinated the Christ Kitchen’s home meal delivery program, but this program has also recently closed. Region 10 also supports the Time Bank, and TBR volunteers help their referred clients, who are not in the Time Bank, with issues like moving, swamp coolers, and shoving snow.

With grant funds dwindling, or disappeared altogether, right now there is a huge need to help seniors in our area. Enforced isolation is taking a heavy psychological toll, and hunger is a real problem for many who live alone. Much has been lost or will be lost soon. We all benefit when we come together to support and care for one another. This is a value that Montrose citizen hold most dear. As much as we need nutrition, we all need purpose and connection.

Please consider attending Voices on Aging, as well as the other two webinars that are part of the Older Coloradans Week program: Reimaging Advocacy in a Virtual World.