From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 41 - January 9, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

New Hi-Country facility moves closer to reality
An in-depth look at just what Hi-Country provides
by Rhonda Swain

Have you ever wondered what kind of impact Baby-Boomers could have on Sublette County when that generation reaches senior citizen status? Is there a concern about what percent of our population is in that generation, and what kinds of preparations are being made to accommodate this sector?

According to the 2000 census, 11.9 percent of Sublette County's population was 65 or older, or more than 1,000 senior citizens.

One need only observe Sublette County's senior citizens centers' staffs to see what they currently do for seniors. The county's senior centers, where many seniors go for lunch either twice a week or every weekday, provide much more than just meals, although the number of meals served at Hi-Country Senior Citizens Inc. in Pinedale grew from 7,230 in fiscal year 2000-2001 to 8,069 in 2001-2002.

Hi-Country, currently located at 143 N. Sublette Ave. in Pinedale, was formed in May of 1980 and serves the communities of Pinedale, Daniel, Cora and Boulder as well as the subdivisions and rural-area citizens of those areas.

The growing number of senior citizens at that time prompted the Sublette County Commissioners to fund the center with revenue-sharing funds; since then the center has received Title III grants as well as funding from the county and the Town of Pinedale to continue operation.

According to information provided to the Examiner by Hi-Country Director Diane Alexander, one of the senior center's goals is to "keep our seniors and disabled in their own homes as long as possible, and to foster self-reliance and their independence through our full-service senior center."

To that end, Title III grants provide funds to "promote, provide and ensure congregate meals, home-delivered meals, nutrition education, screening and counseling, health treatment and prevention, health exercise, transportation and assisted transportation, outreach, information and assistance, telephoning, visiting, shopping, material aid, legal assistance, socialization/recreation, volunteers, advocacy, health education and training services; to foster self sufficiency; to keep the elderly independent while living in their own homes and to prevent premature institutionalization and to increase stimulation and interaction as well as acquire increased knowledge, experience and skills." These grants also enhance disease prevention and health promotion as well as nutritional conditions, including home-delivered meals.

Funds from Sublette County and the Town of Pinedale, as well as six different grants, are used for the endeavors. Alexander said the center's grants include: National Family Caregiver, IIIE, public transit, home-delivered meals, community-based in-home service, and administrative.

Hi-Country, open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (except holidays), serves a noon meal those days it is open. The staff also provides services such as transportation for those who don't drive. But they don't stop there. Alexander organizes shopping trips to Rock Springs or Idaho Falls every month and, for recreation, pool, puzzles, movies, games and quilting. The building is home to a library, a collection of puzzles and an ongoing clothing exchange.

Each month, one Thursday is chosen as the Birthday Lunch to celebrate birthdays; games, trivia and sometimes musical entertainment highlight these events. Buses are loaded with seniors to head off to Big Piney to attend the Sublette County Fair, to Daniel for the Oldtimers' Picnic or up north for the Bondurant Barbecue.

Once a month, the name of a Pinedale-area restaurant is drawn from a hat and the center's staff provides transportation for senior citizens to that establishment for an evening meal. Alexander said that each participant pays for their own meal, and makes a monetary donation, in an amount of their own choosing, for the transportation. She said the staff doesn't monitor money given for meals or transit; they simply ask that people make a donation.

On the serious side, there is education, information, legal referral and assistance with various governmental forms, insurance, income taxes, and tax refunds and relief. They can assist with bill paying from writing checks to helping with their delivery, and they provide escorted shopping each Thursday afternoon.

Health-related offerings are also part of the Hi-Country program, with blood-pressure, foot and hearing aid clinics taking place monthly. The hearing-impaired can purchase hearing aid batteries onsite, and Hi-Country staff offers flu-shot clinics and transportation to and from various doctor's appointments, even as far away as Rock Springs and Jackson.

Those who visit Hi-Country get involved with organizations like the Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Lions Club and the Future Farmers of America (FFA). They participate in the Angel Tree project during the holiday season and create lap quilts and small stuffed toys to donate to the Sublette Center, the Sublette County Sheriff's Office and the emergency medical technicians.

The county's retirement-age population is predicted to see substantial growth in the next quarter of a century and, with an eye to the future, the Sublette County Commissioners have committed $1.5 million to build a new Hi-Country facility behind Faler's General Store.

The building will be owned by the county and used by an ever-growing number of senior citizens and community members.

Sublette County Commission Chairman Bill Cramer said he feels that it will be "nice to have a first-class facility for the senior citizens and to get away from this old building that has served its time," referring to the current Hi-Country building, which served as a medical clinic and dentist's office back to at least the 1960s.

Cramer said his opinion is that a lot of people don't go to the current building because of limited parking in the immediate area of the center.

The commissioners allocate about $35,000 to each of the county's senior centers and Cramer said they also use Hi-Country as the facility that serves as our jail meals and "will continue to do so ... they can meet certain requirements, such as nutrition and sanitation ... So we also generate revenue for the center through the sheriff's budget as well," adding that the county, and Hi-Country, will also help the Sublette Center because the land to be used for the Hi-Country building was purchased from the retirement center.

The building becoming a reality, according to Cramer, is getting close.

"We met with Brad Waters (of Providence Architecture) and Mark Eatinger and Aaron Seehafer (both of Rio Verde Engineering) yesterday to finalize what we will present to the town (Pinedale) for the preliminary plat showing what will be built and so on. ... Parking, setback and all that type of stuff," Cramer said.

Hi-Country Building Committee Chairperson Mary Brodie said in an interview Tuesday that she is "very excited" about the building site, which has been moved west of where it was first proposed. "It will be closer to Faler Avenue, at the corner of Faler and Maybell, right behind Faler's," she said, with the kitchen and eating area now on the west side of the facility. Parking for patrons will be across the south and east sides but "with the idea that when the county utilizes the east side of the property, there will be shared property with the county," Brodie said.

Although the building was originally to be 10,000 square feet, she said the building committee advised Providence Architecture representative Brad Waters to reduce its size.

Brodie said their hope is to attract more of the younger seniors, so they plan to have computer and art classes, pool tournaments and other activities.

"We want to have the facility viewed as one to be used for wedding anniversaries and graduation parties that the community uses. Renting the facility will help to cover the costs ... we would like it to serve more of the overall population in some ways," Brodie said.

Cramer reinforced Brodie's remarks when he said, "They plan on having more of the public use."

Brodie said the building committee members are open to suggestion from community members, and encourages people to look at the plans "now, before it's too late, and perhaps incorporate ideas into the current plans."

As the building begins to be visible, Brodie said she hopes the community will be responsive to their needs and "if we put out a wish list, people will help us with computers, art supplies or whatever."

So, for all those up-and-coming Baby Boomers, remember that when you reach that "certain" age, there will be a first-class facility in Sublette County ready and waiting to meet your needs, whether those needs are a simple meal, a ride to the doctor, someone to help you remain in your home when you are no longer mobile, or whether it's just a shopping trip.

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