What's on the horizon for Colorado's seniors?

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Column by Katy Carpenter

I first heard Jim Riesberg, a representative of the Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging, speak at a Denver Senior Coalition meeting and I was blown away by the information he shared. I was also inspired to learn more.

How had I never heard of this, I asked myself. He told us how the group got started in 2015, its members appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper after a legislative bill (House Bill 15-1033) was passed to study the positive and negative impacts of Colorado’s aging demographics. He went on to share many different statistics regarding the aging population in Colorado, as well as the true purpose of the group.

When SAPGA first formed, their initial considerations were to determine what it means to age well, to measure how well challenges were being met in the various Colorado communities and trying to determine future adjustments based on ever changing needs. The group also realized that there is a larger purpose, to reframe how we all view aging. Instead of thinking that growing older is a negative thing for any of us, SAPGA is looking to promote moving forward with a positive light. “Aging is a gift,” says Jim, “A continual process of growth and learning, and nobody should be defined by their age.”

SAPGA also wants to find ways to help people change their habits, to maintain good health and modify behavior, therefore saving the future by creating fulfilling lifestyles — living better as we all live longer. They found many outstanding resources available throughout the regions, but they also realized there is a disconnect in collaboration and coordination between the services themselves and the people they are trying to serve. What that says to them is this: Colorado leaders must act now to ensure that Colorado continues to be a great place to live, a place that meets the needs of all its residents no matter their age, a place that allows each of us to thrive and a place that is fully connected.

I got the chance to speak with Jim on the phone and ask him some questions. He has been working in the senior field since 1992. Jim is extremely passionate about SAPGA and promoting the bill itself. He shared with me that HB 15-1033 came about due to different groups such as AARP, Denver Regional Council of Government and the Colorado Department of Human Services discussing issues pertinent to people over 55. State Sen. Ray Scott was integral in getting the bill passed, which in turn allowed SAPGA’s formation. He explained that they are currently in the process of getting the word out about the group on radio stations, meeting with state representatives and hiring an administrator to lead the process. Eventually, they will hold town hall meetings.

SAPGA meets regularly, exploring opportunities and planning out steps the governor, state and local elected officials, business and education leaders, and all of us can take to ensure a vital quality of life for future Coloradoan’s. SAPGA has put together eight overall goals as well as a list of recommendations, by working through a committee structure. These goals describe the SAPGA vision and both Jim and I encourage everyone to go take a look at www.colorado.gov/agingstrategy for more detailed information.

The website includes the work of the planning group, links to research and statistics, the committee and group members, meeting schedules and a way to sign up to receive email updates. There is much still to be done, and the more we know, the better we will all be able to participate in creating an amazing future for us all!

Katy Carpenter is a district manager for Home Helpers Home Care. She can be reached at KatyC@homehelpershomecare.com. Jim Riesberg is the chair for Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging (SAPGA) and a former state representative.