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Grand County: County pitches in for Council on Aging

by Tonya Bina

Coming out of a politically messy spell that resulted in the resignation of Executive Director Diane Temple, the Grand County Council on Aging will be sharing its services with Grand County Nursing Services.

Even though administratively the council is restructuring, county officials say the seniors served by the program will see little change.

Commissioners approved the move Tuesday, which means Grand County has assumed the responsibility of the senior nutrition program. The Grand County Council on Aging will continue its focus on transportation.

“The ultimate goal is to provide excellent services for seniors,” said Kathryn Harris, former six-year executive director of the Grand Foundation.

She has volunteered to help the council with its transition and 2008 budget.

Seniors who believe in the program have filled in administratively, helping with transportation schedules and office work until the organization can hire a new executive director, someone the council plans to have on board by November.

As an assurance to seniors, Lynn Dill, a registered nurse and director of the Grand County Home Health and Nursing Services, stressed that there will be no change in services.

The same Council on Aging cooks, Shelly Cecil in Kremmling and Karen Boshears in Granby, will work for the county starting Monday.

“There won’t be any disruption in service,” Dill said. “They are the same cooks hired by the county and the same menus with the same service days.

“I think it’s a good deal. Seniors are not losing any services; the county stepped up to the plate,” she added.

On behalf of the Council on Aging, Harris agrees. “Transportation is still the bread and butter of the Grand Council on Aging,” she said, adding that with the relieved responsibility of providing meals, the council has the opportunity to expand its services.

“It will make a better situation for seniors,” she said.

In May the Council on Aging was cut off from the Northwest Colorado Council of Government’s Alpine Area Agency on Aging funding because of inadequate recording of nutritional data and complaints from some seniors about the administration of services.

Subsequently, the county applied for the Northwest Colorado Council of Government funds and was awarded a grant for both transportation and nutrition of $35,000.

The county then contracted with the Council on Aging to continue its services for a three-month period while the nonprofit attempted to get its financial paperwork and service provider reports in line.

“I think the recording overwhelmed the staff,” Harris said, explaining the deadline was missed.

The county’s recent decision to help with the agency’s nutrition services at least until the next grant cycle “allows the council to get back on its feet,” Dill said.

The reallocation of nutrition funds means the council can keep its successful van program, providing senior transportation to and from meals offered three days a week, as well as shopping trips to local communities, to activities like swimming and out-of-county trips.

Besides the county’s assistance, the council also depends on funds from towns and outside grants. Last year the county and local towns contributed $100,000 to the agency.

With Harris’ help, the council is brainstorming ways it can improve its services and expand its programs as it regains stability.

Some preliminary ideas involve promoting more volunteerism among the boomer generation in Grand County with their ability to help elders, as well as a renewed foster grandparents program involving high school students and a possible companion program that could assist seniors one-on-one. “Volunteer seniors have the time and energy to give back,” Harris said. “It becomes a significant priority for them.”

Harris sees the next executive director as having an “exciting roll” as the senior care program enters a fresh day with “new strategies” in a county that is not getting any younger.

According to the state demographer, the number of seniors in Grand County is predicted to increase by 83 percent by 2010, and the disabled population may increase by 2.4 percent.

And for that, the county and the Council on Aging board recognize a true need to keep its care and Meals-On-Wheels rolling.


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