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County gets grant funding to improve area senior services

$245,000 to be allocated over four years

Thanks to the Colorado Trust, an independent grant-making foundation dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of the people of Colorado, the Gunnison County Senior Resources office has received a grant worth $245,000.  The grant, to be dispersed over the next four years, is part of a $6.5 million Colorado Trust effort to help organizations throughout the state serve the growing population of elderly Coloradoans.




The first installment of the grant award was allocated on June 1, 2007, and the next installment is due November 30.
Gunnison County senior resources coordinator Karin Stewart says the grant will help the county be more responsive to local senior needs.  “It will allow us to increase how we promote local senior resources,” says Stewart.
Stewart also says the funds will allow the county to greatly enhance its ability to provide computer resources for area seniors.
“We’re working on expanding our web-based services,” she says.
According to Stewart, more and more seniors are depending on computers for a variety of information—from health matters to local events. She says the senior resources office is exploring ways to integrate a large amount of this information into a central repository.
“We’re looking at how we can link the web-based resources,” she says.
Stewart says the added revenue has made it possible for the county to hire senior resources specialist Geri Howard. Now, according to Stewart, there will be someone on-hand at the county senior resources office during all business hours.
“The increase of area seniors has created the demand for more office personnel,” she says.
Howard is excited about her new position because, she says, Gunnison has such a vital community of older citizens.
“We have a huge active group of seniors here,” she says.
Howard says the resource office will begin conducting focus groups to best decide how to allocate programs and funding.
“We want to make sure we don’t overlap programs,” she says.
Stewart says some of the grant money will be used to enhance the health and wellness program in the Gunnison Community Center, which serves the flourishing area population of seniors.
Stewart says according to Census data, 20 percent of Gunnison County residents will be over 60 by the year 2010. And according to Stewart, due to the influx of part-time residents, the percentage of seniors grows during the summer months.
“The influx during the summer is another reason to expand the health and wellness program. We have a lot more active seniors,” she says.
The other component of the senior resources office that will benefit from the grant money is “Share and Care,” a program designed to assist senior caregivers.
The county senior resources office is working with Hospice and Palliative Care of Gunnison Valley to train a group of area residents to run the Share and Care program.
Reta Calkins, a Gunnison elementary teacher for 33 years and currently president of the Gunnison chapter of the Colorado Retired School Employee’s Association, says she is excited about the grant because it will create additional options for seniors. She says since the Gunnison Community Center currently caters primarily to sports-oriented activities; seniors often get left out.
“There are a lot of seniors who want to get out and do something, but there are not a lot of options in Gunnison,” she says.
 “I think this is a new opportunity for those who are not outdoors people,” she adds.
Calkins says she is thankful that Stewart is at the helm of the county’s senior resource office because Stewart has been so proactive regarding local senior needs.
“I think she is doing an absolutely marvelous job,” Calkins says.
Stewart says the fact that the grant is spread over four years gives the county senior resource office added flexibility.
“It’s nice because not only can we work on programs this year, but we can plan for the future,” she says.
More information about the grant and county programs for seniors can be found by calling Karin Stewart at (970) 943-7984, or at the Gunnison County website,

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