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Our aging county offers many senior services, here are some options

 (This is the first article in a two-part series on services available to senior citizens in Custer County.)

Custer County continues to age, and remains one of Amer­ica’s older communities. The most current US Census Bureau tabulations note the county is home to 5,355 residents, a gain of slightly over 13% since 2020; just shy of 34% are age 65 plus, making us one of the oldest counties in America.

“Aging” itself should be a neutral concept, but in Ameri­can culture, unlike most of the world’s cultures, “aging” still carries a somewhat negative connotation. Illness, decrepi­tude, purposelessness, over the hill, and on the way out, remain forefront in many folks’ mind when “aging” comes up in conversation or in print.

We trust this is not the case in Custer County, where much of the county’s services support non-profits, as well as small businesses, are in the hands of vibrant, creative, and self-giving seniors. Be that as it may, it is still a matter of concern that an aging population be able to live here seam­lessly with some comfort and assurance that senior citizen needs can be met efficiently and wisely.

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Every person, household, and family wend their way through the natural process of aging. Here, decision-making can be made in the setting of somewhat ample services. The intention of this two part article is to convey what that context is like here, what services exist, and how to be in touch with those services. If readers, for example, know of a family, a friend, or a neighbor, who might avail themselves of these ser­vices, but have not done so, please pass on this information.

When considering aging, perhaps the primary and ordinary reflex of most people is to turn to health and healthcare. It is not a surprise to realize that the West Custer County Hospital District is on top of that concern. The good folks overseeing the District, whose services have been amplified over the last couple of years by its incorporation into Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) based in Salida, have kept seniors’ health and healthcare high on the agenda. Representa­tive of that is the soon-to-be distributed “Community Connec­tion Card,” which will collect our thinking and concerns about matters affecting positive aging, from independent living facil­ities, extended care, home health, nursing, and hospice services to rehabilitation services and transportation matters.

In addition to this manner of engagement with the resi­dent community regarding these services, Board of Directors Chairman Bob Tobin makes it clear that the Board meetings are open to the public: last Thursday of the month, 3 p.m. in the board room at the Custer County Medical Center, 704 Edwards Avenue, Westcliffe. Citizen participation in the meetings is not only welcome, but also productive; at January’s meeting, some senior citizens complemented the Board’s thinking about arranging transportation for dialysis patients, a new service now available for clinic and HRRMC patients three days a week. The informative website for the district is

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Some medical services are also provided by Salida- based Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments Agency on Aging. Their mission statement makes it clear that the Agency can “assist seniors, age 60+, throughout the region in maintaining health, dignity, independence, and quality of life through education, advocacy, coordination, and deliv­ery of services and programs.” The latter include caregiver respite; assistance with household chores; dental, vision, and in-home services; legal and nutrition services; and ombudsman support. Details are available at, and at 719-275-8350. By the way, the Custer County Senior Center program for congregate meals and meals-on-wheels is part of the Area Agency on Aging service provision; more on that next week.

County services for the aging are provided through Custer County Human Services. Director Laura Lockhart tells us that “Over the last three years, there has been an uptick in people needing assistance and help” amongst the senior population here. Lockhart makes it clear too, that if the senior service needed is not immediately available through their staff and programs, “we certainly refer out as we are able.” The very friendly office and staff are reach­able at 719-783-4207; details on the variety of services are listed at services. Lock­hart notes what so many aging residents here experience: “Living at home, some people are simply not able to do what they did before…we do have services that may help.”

A bit of good news regarding these matters is that many more services exist, and the Tribune intends to provide infor­mation on as many as are known to us in a second article next week: food and transportation assistance, public health, emergency services, information sources, housing and care facilities, volunteering.

In the meantime, may all enjoy aging as the natural pro­cess it is in life, a time for, among other matters, reflection, giving back, and, well, lots of joy and fun!

– W.A. Ewing

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