Boomers booming in Littleton

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Next year, all 75 million baby boomers will be 50 or older. And by 2030, more than 10,000 of them will be living in Littleton — nearly a quarter of the city’s current population — according to Denver Regional Council of Governments forecasts.

With that in mind, the city is taking a hard look at what types of services it can implement now to support that population into the future. Kay Wilmesher, a city employee who has served as the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative’s director, was moved out of the community-development department last year and into the city manager’s office to spearhead this new effort.

“With federal funding cuts come state and local cuts,” she wrote in a memo presented to city council Nov. 12. “Stressing local government resources in an effort to meet senior needs could likely stress essential city services such as fire and police protection. This situation could, in turn, possibly affect the perceived and real quality of life for the citizens of the community; it could damage the community’s fabric from one recognized as healthy, family friendly and economically stable to something much less desirable.”

According to census data, Littleton’s median age is 42, compared to 35.8 in the greater Denver metro area. Seniors are the only age category expected to grow in in the city.

Fortunately for them, there is a wide variety of resources available. There are housing options like Amity Plaza and Bradley House, transportation solutions like Omnibus and Shopping Cart, health programs like Doctors Care and Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health, and many that are more socially oriented like Buck Recreation Center and Meals on Wheels.

However, there has been no centralized effort in Littleton to bring together all these resources and find out where the gaps are.

“When resources are tight, we all pull together,” said Wilmesher.

Her suggested next steps are to bring together existing groups that serve seniors to brainstorm solutions, then look to other communities so as not to reinvent the wheel. Wilmesher holds out Wheat Ridge, a community similar to Littleton in size and demographics, as an example of what’s working. It began its efforts six years ago, and now supports several subcommittees with different emphases.

A major focus is on training citizens to look out for each other, said Wilmesher. Volunteers with groups like Meals on Wheels or Inter-Faith Community Services, and even local mail carriers and clergy, can be trained to recognize signs of distress in seniors, then teach others how to do the same.

Seniors should keep their eyes out for a survey to arrive in the mail somewhere in mid-2014.

“With this information in hand, these values can be extrapolated to make future predictions,” said Wilmesher.

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