Independent living |

Independent living

Abigail Eagye
Edward Katzenberger, 90, lives on his own, but welcomes the friendly assistance from staff at Columbine Homemakers for Independent Living, who visit once a week to help with light housekeeping and grocery shopping. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

As an aeronautical engineer, Edward Katzenberger built a career out of mobility. He’s made significant contributions to aviation, including designs of well-known models of Sikorsky and Black Hawk helicopters. But the 90-year-old Basalt resident’s personal mobility is now limited, and he needs modest assistance to continue living on his own.In 2004, after prodding from his family, he moved from Ames, Iowa, to Basalt to be closer his son, John, and his family.”They can be of much greater help to me if I’m not 900 miles away,” Katzenberger said.It’s a typical story for a senior citizen. As people age, they can no longer perform the daily functions they used to. But for many, there comes a time when the help a family can offer isn’t enough, and they’re faced with moving to a nursing home, even if they’re still fairly independent.Columbine Homemakers for Independent Living seeks to put that day off as long as possible. For some people, even a little help can allow them to continue living independently.Katzenberger now walks with a cane and requires help with sundry housekeeping jobs like doing the laundry. Thanks to Columbine’s services, he can continue living on his own in a ground-floor condominium in Basalt, where he remains active with hobbies like painting and writing his memoir.Based in Glenwood Springs, Columbine helps senior citizens like Katzenberger and other disabled adults throughout the 100-mile corridor from Aspen to Rifle.The organization began in 1995 in response to a senior citizen survey that indicated homemaking services were needed. Shortly after, Columbine Home Health, which offers skilled nursing assistance for people with disabilities, adopted the program. It soon became clear the need for basic homemaking services was great enough for the organization to stand on its own.”There were so many seniors and disabled adults who just needed the homemaking piece of it,” said Michelle McCleery, executive director of Columbine Homemakers.

The nonprofit organization provides a variety of homemaking services for seniors older than 60 and disabled adults older than 18. Recipients must be essentially independent, needing only modest help with day-to-day chores. Columbine offers up to four hours a week of help with activities such as light housekeeping, cooking, grocery shopping, sorting mail, paying bills and modest exercise programs.”Our goal is to keep seniors and disabled adults at home and out of nursing homes with our services as long as possible,” McCleery said.

Visits to clients’ or applicants’ homes allow Columbine’s staff to “make sure there isn’t anything else that’s going unnoticed,” she said. “Are they eating? Are they healthy? Are they isolating? A lot of them don’t have families.”

Columbine’s staff helps ensure clients are safe on their own and that they’re getting enough socialization. Although staff visits are limited, they can help make sure clients can get to outside facilities like senior centers to stay connected with other people, if they don’t have much family close by.Columbine also provides “respite care,” help for spouses or other caregivers who might just need a break from offering fulltime care themselves.Currently, there is a waiting list for people seeking Columbine’s help in Eagle and Garfield counties. McCleery said she’s also received requests from people in Pitkin County, but many of the people’s needs are too great to rely on Columbine alone.That doesn’t mean the group can’t help at all, though. Columbine’s staff is familiar with a variety of assistance programs, and when they evaluate applicants – or even as they’re helping clients – staff members can connect people with the appropriate agencies for further help.

The group’s five staff members put in about 300 hours a week to meet its goal of helping people stay independent; but with limited funds, its services are currently maxed out. It costs about $35 per hour to provide services, but to keep the cost affordable for recipients, the organization is heavily subsidized by grants and donations and always is seeking more financial support.The nonprofit recently received a $25,000 donation from Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, and it has received financial support from Pitkin and Garfield counties as well as many of the cities and towns throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.But Columbine Homemakers is in constant need of support to continue its services, especially to expand the program to help more people.To ask for an evaluation for someone in need or to donate to the program, call 948-4102 or e-mail Donations also can be mailed to Columbine Homemakers for Independent Living, P.O. Box 1331, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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