Assisted living takes a flying leap | AspenTimes.com

Assisted living takes a flying leap

Su Lum
Aspen, CO Colorado

Aspen’s assisted living facility, Whitcomb Terrace, is a sweet housing unit up by the hospital with one big problem: If the residents need more than minimal care, they have to find accommodations elsewhere, uprooted at the most fragile time of their lives.

I spent a lot of time there a few years ago, visiting my friend Doris Barlow, who lived in dread of being kicked out of “The Home” and who, indeed, went over the edge ” out in the night looking for lost cats and babies or entertaining phantom visitors in her room. Her daughters had to come and take her away.

This being the problem that needs solving, I was surprised to attend one of a series of community meetings about a proposed full-care retirement and medical facility. Run by New Life Management and Development Company, it would consist of at least 100 units (sizes to be determined) to be built on a minimum of 10 acres, where, for a price so high they couldn’t even discuss it (they were in extreme Aspen sticker shock), the valley’s retirees could buy into a plan that could take them from independent living to assisted living to critical care and beyond.

In other words, retirement “Aspen-style,” and I’m sure it would be grand. It would also probably have to be located far from Aspen because of the price of land, an admitted fly in the ointment.

There is a lot to be said for these full-care retirement complexes. I know several people across the country who have been served well by them, and if New Life (I can’t say I love the name) thinks such an endeavor would be sustainable in this small valley, they should go for it, but I’m not sure we should be encouraging them. It was a $25,000 study that brought them here, and some of those at the meeting were quite astounded by its scope.

The logic behind it was similar to that of the big buildings on the drawing board in town. By the time you put the financial engine (penthouses) in place, you’re at three stories. The retirement complex needs 100 units to make it financially feasible. Next thing you know, you’re talking 10 acres and square footage the size of the place we still call the Ritz.

Meanwhile, Aspen Valley Hospital is in the process of vastly expanding its size and services, and surely a corner of it could be devoted to handling the temporary or long-term needs of our small population of residents at Whitcomb Terrace, or of our old-timers who have stayed, and want to stay, in their homes as long as they possibly can.

Home nursing services definitely need to be improved. An intense drive to recruit able-bodied “buddies” for the infirm, the halt and the lame (I am a “halt”) would go a long way toward keeping our citizens in the bosom of the community. I’d rather see a movement in this direction than a private enclave tucked away down the road, far from the sound of children’s laughter.

It could be both, but taking care of people right here and now should be our first priority.


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