With a growing number of Monument residents in the 65-and-up demographic, the Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance faces outgrowing its facility by 2025.
In a presentation to the town’s Board of Trustees during its Nov. 18 meeting, Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance Vice President Dorothy Silvanic thanked the board for the town’s increased support of the nonprofit organization since 2018. Silvanic said the town provides $12,000 of the Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance’s $70,000 annual budget.
The alliance has been in existence since 2002 and is an organization run by volunteers with one paid employee — the part-time executive director. In 2015, the Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance decided to separate its programs into its Senior Center and Senior Meals activities. That year, the alliance’s senior center was open five days a week, four hours a day. It offered three classes per week, card-game activities 12 times a month, a monthly bingo or similar event, and a foot clinic twice a month.
Silvanic said unique attendance for the senior center at that time was approximately 165 seniors per month. This year, with the center’s growth in population, the facility now approximates 300 unique visitors per month, with overall visitors totaling more than 450. This means the senior center’s present facility is at capacity, Silvanic said.
The Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance Senior Center is a 4,000-square-foot modular building located outside Lewis-Palmer High School. In 2019, the center has expanded to eight hours a day, Monday-Friday, and 1-2 hours on Saturday for additional exercise classes. It offers 19 exercise classes per week, 21 bingo events or similar per month, and seminars including a book club. The facility also started a food pantry for seniors and a monthly Senior Beat newsletter, Silvanic said.
“It really has been a godsend because we are packed most days,” she said.
However, the facility does have challenges including an unpaved parking lot in front of the center, ramp access and traffic from student drivers nearby. In addition, as with most older modular buildings, Silvanic said the facility deals with heating and cooling issues as well as bugs and rodents at times. She said the bathrooms in the center are also designed for high-school-age patrons and are not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
“It presents challenges for the older population,” Silvanic said. “It’s a portable building that’s old and not even useful for students these days.”
Silvanic went on to share data the alliance accumulated from the U.S. Census Bureau and a report on El Paso County from the Colorado State Demography Office projecting a 30% increase in Monument’s population of residents age 65 and older between 2016 and 2025. It projects an additional 30% increase to the same population between 2025 and 2040.
With this data, the Tri-Lakes Senior Center expects to serve 600-plus unique visitors each month by 2025. Its present facility does not have the room for the increase, Silvanic said.
The state demography office report showed three clusters of senior citizen populations with senior centers in the area including Fountain, Hancock Street in Colorado Springs and the alliance’s facility in Monument serving northern El Paso County. From a regional perspective, the Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance Senior Center serves the population in Monument and Palmer Lake as well as Black Forest and the 80921 ZIP code in Colorado Springs.
“Even before seeing the data, our gut was telling us our population was from about County Line Road to North Gate Boulevard,” Silvanic said. “We are finding seniors would rather come up here than drive to the center of Colorado Springs.
“This leads us to believe we will be serving twice as many people here by 2025.”
Silvanic said solutions to the alliance’s growing pains center around a change of facility. However, the alliance’s leadership is unsure if they will move toward renovating an existing structure or constructing a new building. Initial cost estimates put the project into the $2-4 million range.
“Right now, the dream is only in a position of identifying the problems,” Silvanic said. “We are looking for people who possess any skill set which could be useful to help us.”
The next steps for serving the growth in population include investigating alternative solutions and fundraising, she said, and 2025 is the goal to have the alliance’s needs met.