When Cheryl Moore isn’t assisting resident seniors at the Life Care Center of Aurora, she is caring for seniors who want to stay in their own homes through a service called Home Instead. Like many Certified Nursing Assistants or CNAs, Moore needs to cobble together enough hours in multiple positions to make ends meet. Though Moore helps seniors with the difficult task of meeting basic human needs such as eating and going to the bathroom, pay in the industry is notoriously low. According to payscale.com, a CNA with five years of experience and a high school diploma should earn $30,000.
According to Moore, the Life Care Center of Aurora is part of a network of dozens of facilities throughout Colorado, with the home corporation in Tennessee. Like many senior facilities, the Aurora center includes meal preparation, housekeeping, and on-call nurses. For the approximately 200 residents, about one-quarter are long-term, lacking mobility or dealing with incontinence. Three-quarters are recovering from medical treatment or for some other reason, are short-term residents. Moore reports that about 1 of every 5 residents is a native speaker of a language other than English - predominantly Spanish.
Housing for seniors is typically divided according to the level of assistance: 1) Help at home 2) Active Adult Communities 3) Assisted Living 4) Memory Care Assisted Living 5) Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation 6) Hospice Care. Though labels may vary, the level of service and care generally falls under one of these categories.
Threats to Senior Housing
As anyone in the market to buy or sell a home or rent an apartment can testify, the Colorado real estate market is one of the most lucrative in the country. With rising property costs, developers are looking to maximize value by building or renovating to suit the highest bidder – typically one of the scores of new residents to the state at the expense of long-time residents. One such case is transpiring in Colorado Springs, ranked as a top ten real estate market in the country by realtor.com and as the hottest realty market in the country by California real estate data company, Attom Data Solutions. Senior residents of the Emerald Towers were told in November that they would have to leave their building which will undergo renovations and no longer serve the affordable housing needs of seniors. Several social services agencies are scrambling to find new housing for residents during this holiday season, a notoriously difficult time to find housing.
A 2017 US News and World Report study ranked Colorado #1 ‘Best States for Aging’ largely because of high education levels, economic health of the state, and an active outdoor lifestyle. However, that same report reveals housing as a major burden for our state’s seniors, ranking Colorado’s housing affordability at #48 out of 50 states.
Another threat to meeting the housing needs of seniors are cities that have put a halt to new construction because their social service system cannot meet the demands of assisted living facilities. In Lafayette, Colorado, outside of Boulder, the city council has put a moratorium on additional senior housing at a time when need will only increase. The municipal legislature will study how resources like police, fire and hospitals can adequately serve seniors before allowing any new projects to be built. A new 90-day moratorium is likely to be approved this week by the Lafayette City Council.
Given a spate of highly publicized cases of nursing home mistreatment around the country, several states have enacted legislation to implement video monitoring and recording systems at the request of residents. Utah put their legislation in place last year to ensure resident safety and rights. A handful of other states including Texas, have increased monitoring in recent years.
Colorado Latinos are projected to make up a larger percentage of the senior population in coming decades. According to the Colorado Health Institute, Latinos 65+ currently comprise just over 10 percent of the senior population but will account for 17 percent of the senior population by 2040.
For cost and/or cultural reasons, senior Latinos are much more likely than non-Latinos to live at home. CHI reports that 25 percent of Latino seniors living at home receive assistance from a family member but only 16 percent of non-Latinos living at home report such assistance.
Recognizing the demographic shifts and need for services, the Latino Age Wave created an initiative through the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado that supports Latino seniors through education, culturally relevant programming, and increased fundraising for services targeting Colorado Latino seniors. According to Project Manager, Daniela Young, “Many senior apartment complexes don’t have staff with the cultural competence to serve Latino residents.” The foundation is pursuing pop-up centers for senior facilities with Spanish-speaking residents.
In recent years, longtime community development agency, NEWSED teamed with the Bergwyn Company on two projects to meet the growing needs of Latino seniors. In 2011, they built Chaffee Park Senior Residences. The Sunnyside development hosts 62 units targeted toward the original, and now senior, residents of the neighborhood. One year later, they added a second, adjacent building called the Shoshone Senior Residences. Both buildings serve seniors who qualify for affordable housing. According to NEWSED President and CEO, Veronica Barela, “We looked at demographics there, they had no senior centers in the Northside. The need was obvious because the housing got filled up so fast.”
Numerous online resources are available to find housing across the country with names like ‘after55.com’ and seniorhousing.net. The web site www.aplaceformom.com features Colorado homes and advice for families considering a senior home for a loved one, a list of important family conversations to have before selection and financial considerations. The advice and resource referral is bundled under a section entitled, “Caregiver Toolkit”.
A search for senior housing in Colorado on the web site www.senioradvisor.com yields around 30 possibilities for the Denver area, replete with user reviews and ratings between 0 and 5 stars. The properties cost between $879/month and $5,950/month contingent upon the level of assistance, concierge services available, and housing size.
A Colorado Springs search showed over 30 possibilities with some as far away as 12 miles. Services range from meal preparation and massage to speech and occupational therapy. Many offer memory care and hospice services. Pueblo’s 38 choices include Colorado Springs and Rocky Ford listings, both about 50 miles away.
For those more inclined to use hard copies, the Seniors Blue Book is available for 7 Colorado regions. For Denver, the resource is divided into North and South and includes a section on resources and housing. The free book comes out every May.
Senior housing is big business
Senior housing is a big enough industry to publish its own bi-monthly magazine called Seniors Housing Business along with an online component. Industry developments, new buildings and senior trends are included in their coverage. As testament to the lucrative side of the industry, the periodical recently reported Big Rock Partners is looking to invest $200-$500 million in 20-50 senior homes across the country.