Living Wisdom Village Elders Creating Community
To develop housing for an economically diverse population, within walking distance of the Crestone commercial district, for people 55 and older who are able to live independently.
Why Living Wisdom Village?
There is a complete lack of senior independent living facilities in Saguache County, and this market is severely undersupplied in surrounding San Luis Valley. A 2016 Housing Market Study reported a demand at that time for 93 new units in Saguache County and 422 new units in surrounding counties. An updated study completed in July 2020 reports a current demand for 151 new units in Saguache County, a 63% increase in just four years!
The lack of affordable housing is recognized as a significant problem in the county, but little action is being taken to begin to resolve this issue. Seniors moving to an assisted living facility is occasionally a solution. However, the costs associated with long-term residence in an assisted living setting are financially unsustainable for many persons, resulting in total depletion of family assets and eventual dependence on Medicaid. The average cost of residing in assisted living facilities in the SLV is greater than $4,000 per month. That is simply not an option for most of our seniors, particularly women, who have lived with the reality of wage inequity for all their lives and are now trying to live solely supported by social security income. Housing expense has risen drastically in Colorado, an estimated 6.6% increase in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019. It is hard to find rental homes, especially with the popularity of Airbnb’s. A large portion of our community is within a HOA, which does not encourage development of one-bedroom homes.
It is vitally important to us that our elders have the opportunity to live dignified and engaged lives, remaining physically and mentally active, ensuring they are visible and valued in society, and able to enjoy reciprocal relationships with peers, neighbors, and community members of all ages. It is necessary for elders to remain in community for as long as possible to maintain the diversity.
The goal of Living Wisdom Village (LWV) is to provide housing for our elders to age in place, located near their friends and established connections. It will be built cost-effectively and sustainably for people 55 and older who can live independently, and located in the town of Crestone, making it easier for our elders to meet their basic shopping and social interaction needs. The Village will include a community center so that seniors can meet often and share experiences such as meals and entertainment. There will be a private space for health practitioners to visit onsite, a laundry facility and a large community garden. The Village will create a strong sense of place and support quality of life. This project aims to strengthen capacity while meeting the needs of our aging population, where seniors can maximize the quality of their lives in an environment that offers both privacy and community. It is structured to include a balanced range of income and demographic segments of the county.
There are many innovative elements of this project that set LWV apart from other affordable or senior housing projects. It is being designed by elders, for elders, and aims to improve the lives of underserved seniors. It is being completed by a non-profit board, who will receive no financial benefit from their years of work. It will be built close to the commercial district, making shopping and social interactions easier to access. Utilizing sustainable and innovative building materials is a key feature for construction. Working with vendors who are addressing environmental and social responsibilities is important in this project. LWV incorporates a communal, yet independent housing approach; the community center and garden will further support the health and well-being of its residents. Although not required, ADA supportive features will be incorporated at construction. This will be the first multi-unit living facility built in the community.
Saguache County Government – the County Commissioners have provided nine sales tax grants thus far to assist with the costs involved in developing affordable senior housing in Saguache County. With these funds we have been able to contract for a Housing Market Study - completed in 2016, create a website, conduct community outreach events, conduct a survey on senior housing needs, and engage a Project Manager for the Living Wisdom Village project.
Adams State University (ASU), Business Department – ASU students have assisted our project with the creation of an on-line survey soliciting feedback on the needs for senior housing, and provided marketing ideas and materials for the promotion of this project.
Crestone/Baca Village – Volunteers provide services to community seniors and those with disabilities, such as transportation; cooking; home, vehicle and appliance maintenance and repair; and visitation.