Aging Matters: As Colorado gets older, how can the state prepare, and how can we support each other?

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Judith Boyd of Denver, known on Instagram as @StyleCrone, has become a septuagenarian social media fashion star. Photographed in her eclectic garden as she set up her latest selfies and video, on Monday, September 20, 2021.

The fastest-growing population in Colorado is people 65 and older.

No age group is a monolith. People age differently. Whether they're a 72-year-old former college professor in Denver facing the onset of dementia head-on, or a 76-year-old DJ on the Western Slope.

That’s why Colorado Matters has launched a new project called Aging Matters, to help us all embrace getting older and to ask if the state is ready for this next chapter in life, from housing and health care to finances and social support.

Whether you're aging yourself or caring for someone who is, we want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] or leave a voicemail at 303-871-9191 X 4480.

Colorado’s population is getting older. It will impact everyone

April 8, 2024

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
From 2010 to 2020, Colorado had the second fastest-growing population of people over the age of 65 in the nation, behind only Alaska.

Colorado is aging. 

The number of people in the state who are 65 and older will increase by 35 percent over the next decade, a significant shift that could impact nearly every aspect of the economy and every corner of the state.

The main driver? The baby boomers.

“We migrated a lot of baby boomers here in the ‘70s, and they were 20 around that time,” said Elizabeth Garner, Colorado’s state demographer.

Interview: A sheriff’s deputy’s advice to older people (and everyone) on avoiding scams

April 10, 2024

Jenny Kane/AP Photos
In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans.

Scammers follow the money. And though research finds that 20-somethings are more likely to fall for fraud, it’s people over the age of 70 who lose the most cash. 

That includes Jill Gibbens’ dad. He's in his 80s and lives in Aurora. First, a computer pop-up warned that he had a virus that would cost $5,000 to fix. He thought that sounded fishy and ignored it.

But then he got a call from someone claiming to be from his bank.

Social Call helps seniors combat loneliness while building intergenerational connections

April 24, 2024

Virus Outbreak Fighting Loneliness
LM Otero/AP Photo
Dell Kaplan, 81, talks on her phone if front of her home in Plano, Texas Friday, May 15, 2020, as part of a program offered by the city of Plano to help older adults combat loneliness. Social Call in Denver offers a similar service.

Aging can be tough, and one of the most difficult and lesser-discussed aspects for many is dealing with loneliness and social isolation. A growing body of research finds that older people are more likely to face risk factors due to living alone, the loss of family members and friends, chronic illness, and even hearing loss.

One organization is reaching out nationwide, including in Colorado, to help combat these adverse effects of loneliness among seniors — one phone call at a time.

Social Call connects volunteers who sign up to call older adults for weekly one-on-one, 30-minute phone calls. Organizers say the program helps provide consistent conversation and connection, something that will continue to be a growing need in Colorado.

One woman's journey with Alzheimer's: How DU's former chancellor is determined to delay the symptoms

May 4, 2024

Rebecca Chopp sits in the Colorado Matters studio. April 23, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Rebecca Chopp sits in the Colorado Matters studio. April 23, 2024.

Rebecca Chopp has done a lot. She was chancellor at the University of Denver and before that, at Swarthmore College and Colgate University. In 2019, Chopp stepped down as DU's chancellor after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

But the diagnosis hasn't stopped her.

Since resigning from DU, Chopp has written a new book called "Still Me," serves on the national board of the Alzheimer's Association and co-founded "Voices of Alzheimer's," an advocacy group for people with the condition.

Who will make your medical decisions if you can’t? And Colorado’s ‘unusual’ approach makes planning important. One CU doctor has advice

May 19, 2024

Chandra Thomas Whitfield/CPR News
Dr. Hillary Lum is a geriatrician and associate professor at the University of Colorado Medical School. She joined us in the CPR News studios to talk about advanced medical care planning for our ongoing series, "Aging Matters on Colorado Matters."

In Colorado, if you are critically ill and can't make medical decisions for yourself, no one can automatically step in to do so - not even your spouse or adult children. 

That state law makes advanced planning especially important, says Dr. Hillary Lum, a geriatrician and associate professor at the University of Colorado Medical School.  She recommends all adults identify someone to make decisions on their behalf, and address the kind of care they’d like - or not like - to receive. Dr. Lum says patients who have not made their wishes clear can end up in what’s called a “proxy process,” where medical staff tries to identify a decision-maker on their behalf.

Dr. Lum spoke with Colorado Matters host Chandra Thomas Whitfield about what Coloradans need to decide in advance, and how to bring it up with family members. Resources and documents can be found by clicking here.

Defying age: Denver's '80 Something' art exhibition celebrates creative longevity

June 6, 2024

Eden Lane/CPR News
The artist reception for the '80 Something' art show at Denver's Niza Knoll Gallery, May 26, 2024.

In the heart of Denver's Santa Fe Art District, the latest exhibition at the Niza Knoll Gallery challenges conventional notions of aging and celebrates the enduring power of artistic expression. 

Titled "80 Something," this vibrant, and diverse show features the work of seven contemporary artists in their ninth decade and beyond.

“I turned 81 in February, and I knew quite a few artists that were in their eighties and producing amazing work. I want people to know that we're around and we are still doing art," said gallery owner and co-curator Niza Knoll.

A new pool of recruits for understaffed preschools and home care: older Coloradans

June 26, 2024

Sunanda Babu works with preschoolers
Courtesy of Early Childhood Service Corps
Sunanda Babu, 72, a retired scientist, now works part-time with preschoolers in Denver.

Three mornings a week, you can find Sunanda Babu doing puzzles or practicing counting at Mile High Early Learning Center in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood. Babu is 72 and retired; retired, that is, from her former career as a medical researcher. Now she’s a part-time teacher, a job she took to get her out of the house while giving back to her community.

“I love to be with the kids and see how they're growing,” she said. “Sometimes I go to a class where I haven't been for a while and the kids remember me, and they all want to come and give me hugs and everything. So I think I'm a positive influence on these kids.”

Babu is among a growing number of older Coloradans who have signed up to work in chronically understaffed areas, from early childhood education to home care for seniors. Organizations that recruit and train for these industries see opportunity in the state’s increasing population of people over the age of 65.

A Grand Junction family shelter is expanding their services to a growing homeless population: older women

July 9, 2024

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Homes along a ridgeline in The Redlands near Grand Junction, with the Book Cliffs in the background.

A Grand Junction shelter focused on older women experiencing homelessness is expanding in what the program’s director said demonstrates the growing challenges for older adults struggling with housing.

The Golden Girls program is a product of the Joseph Center, a Grand Junction nonprofit that works with homeless families with children.

In 2023, the Grand Junction City Council approved a grant of nearly $1 million to help fund an expansion of those services. Nicki Tarr, who runs Golden Girls, said the need for emergency housing for unhoused senior women “has just gotten worse.”