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Community-based services for older Coloradans at risk in Legislature

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(Colorado News Connection) Advocates for people age 65 and older urged Colorado lawmakers to fully fund a program helping people remain in their homes and avoid placement in assisted living facilities.

Jayla Sanchez-Warren, director of the Area Agency on Aging for the Denver Regional Council of Governments, said home-based services cost under $2,000 dollars per year, on average, compared to $74,000 for nursing homes. Since most people cannot afford the nursing home charges, state and federal taxpayers have to pick up the bill after their savings are gone.

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"It saves money for individuals, it saves money for the state, and it keeps people where they want to be; living in their own homes," Sanchez-Warren emphasized. "Someone who needs help with preparing meals and maybe showering should not have to go to a nursing home."

Sanchez-Warren noted adequately funding home-delivered meals, transportation, in-home assistance and similar services would cost the state $20 million. The number of people age 65 and older is projected to rise from 928,000 to 1.3 million by 2035, according to Colorado State Demography office data, outnumbering people 18 and under over the next three decades.

Federal support for community based services has dropped, and state-based funding is stuck at 2019 levels.

Sara Schueneman, state director of AARP Colorado, said demand has risen dramatically. Nearly eight in 10 Coloradans say they want to age in place in their communities.

"There is a growing population of older adults in the state of Colorado, and there is growing demand," Schueneman pointed out. "We are trying to support more people with less money because there is so much need."

Advocates urged lawmakers to increase funding by at least $5 million in the state's annual budget, and increase the amount year over year to ensure people can access services.

Sanchez-Warren added right now, their largest transportation provider has a 700 person waiting list. If someone needs to get to a doctor's appointment or a dialysis treatment, they have to wait at least two months for a ride.

"You can't get a home delivered meal right now," Sanchez-Warren stressed. "It used to be where you would come out of the hospital, and maybe your doctor said you should get home-delivered meals. And within a couple of days we could get you into a program and there would be a meal at your door. Not anymore, it's on a waiting list."