Hearty High Country seniors usher in New Year

Sondra Fields
Gilpin County

“The best senior program ever.” (Anne Wyss)
“People who live up here want to stay here.” (Kate Smith)
“You’d have to go a long ways to find a Senior Program as good as Gilpin.” (Elenore Andersen)
“Socialization, good friends, good food…wonderful program.” (Carol Mirarck)
“The best outcome of gaming.” (Violet Aandres)
“I come here because I like to hang out with the other old farts.” (Soni Brosze)
“It’s like going to Starbucks, but being with people you want to be with and it’s cheaper.” (R.G. Duebel)
These are some of the sentiments expressed by seniors to explain the wonderful turn out at the Gilpin Seniors’ New Year’s Eve celebration this past Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Despite a snow storm nipping at their heels and sending them scurrying inside, Gilpin Senior Program Coordinator Mary Ellen Makosky counted 31 lunches served at this end-of-year celebration. A Gilpin County Primer for Living in the High Country states, “In the high country weather is neither good nor bad, it just IS.” This statement seems to perfectly reflect the attitude of these hearty, high country seniors of Gilpin County.
With a huge smile and electric energy Ana Buckmanhart exclaimed, “Mary Ellen is exceptional in coordinating the programs and finding new programs to expose us to…”
Forget the stereotype of white hairs in rocking chairs. These seniors have get-up and go, are happy to be alive and eager to share. Under Makosky’s guidance multiple activities or events are offered each weekday. Three days out of the week lunches are provide at the Gilpin County Community Center, which is home to the Gilpin Senior Program. Lunches are sandwiched between programs to nourish both body and mind. One day there might be a free exercise class before and a meditation for stress class after lunch or maybe a presentation on some topic of interest like changes in Social Security or some aspect of health. To keep senior brains clicking along Bingo or Senior Trivia are offered two or three times a month.
Speaking of keeping aging brains healthy, the latest research on aging with healthy brains spotlights the importance of maintaining a sense of community and connection. If the raves from seniors themselves and the consistent attendance of 30 or more are any gauge, this senior program gets an A+.
To further foster community, this vital group of older folks, who appear proud of their age, take trips together once a month to entertaining and intellectually stimulating places like Imax to see “To the Arctic” or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to view exhibits like the much acclaimed Pompeii exhibit.
Besides providing a place for socializing, connecting and stimulation of body and mind this senior program also provides much appreciated support services. Volunteers of America, Denver Regional Council of Governments and Gilpin County have partnered to provide three vehicles of varying sizes (an 11 passenger van, a minivan and an SUV) that are used to transport seniors to all events, to doctor and dentist appointments, weekly luncheons and shopping outings.
Member Anne Wyss told a story of real support about how program Coordinator Mary Ellen Makosky saved her life. It seems Wyss was in her mid-sixties and had never had a colonoscopy. Eventually, she decided it might be a good idea, but she needed a ride. She called up Mary Ellen one day and said something like, “I’m not going to go if you don’t take me.” Mary Ellen didn’t hesitate a second to accommodate Anne’s request. As it turned out Anne had cancer. With Mary Ellen’s willingness to be her chauffeur, the cancer was caught in time.
This story reminded Makosky that the senior program also provides free medical alert devices that they wear and punch if they need help. All you have to do is pick up a packet which contains the Fire Department’s phone number. You call the number. Make an appointment and the Fire Department comes out and sets up the device. You do need a land line for this device to work.
In addition to weekly luncheons and occasional trips to local restaurants and casinos, Ameristar, Volunteers of America and The Food Bank of the Rockies provide “Food Totes” for about 50 seniors every week. Regardless of what you might think of the Gaming Industry that came to Gilpin County in 1991, one of the undeniable truths is gaming has definitely helped provide the funds to make this, according to Anne Wyss, “The Best Senior Program Ever.”
In addition to offerings and opportunities already mentioned, seniors also have yoga, dance classes, sit and fit exercise classes, swimming and birthday parties on their menu of activities in which to partake. One thing is certain, if 2013 at the Gilpin Senior Program is as good as it was in 2012 Gilpin senior citizens will continue to be a very happy group of older Americans.
Watch out. The number of members just could expand because as a couple of seniors put it, “People up here aren’t about to move,” and “More seniors would come here if they knew about all the great services.” By the way, luncheons are open to everyone regardless of where you live. Happy New Year from the healthy, happy and hearty high country Gilpin County Seniors.