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Study lists Cortez as Top 10 place for retiree recreation

Rec center, services get high marks
A SilverSneakers class exercises at the Cortez Recreation Center in 2012. Staff say the program has grown substantially since it started in 2010.

A nationwide study has listed Cortez as the 10th-best city in Colorado for seniors who want to exercise and socialize.

SmartAsset, a data website dedicated to helping people plan for retirement and other major financial decisions, recently released its 2017 list of the best places in Colorado to retire, based on tax rates, the availability of medical care and the number of nearby recreation and social activities.

Cortez ranked 10th in the recreation category because of the number of retirement and recreation centers compared with the number of seniors in the area.

It ranked at 3,172 overall in Colorado and 651 for recreation nationwide. Durango was ranked the 10th-best overall retirement city in Colorado.

Cortez has 0.4 retirement centers per 1,000 people, which is above the statewide average of 0.1. The study estimated 18.8 percent of the population is made up of retirees, which is also above-average for Colorado. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people 65 years old and older made up 13.4 percent of Colorado’s total population in 2016.

The centrally located Cortez Recreation Center also factored into the town’s score, according to SmartAsset’s public relations intern, Stephanie Ciosek.

While Cortez residents of all ages regularly use the recreation center, one of its most advertised services is the daily set of SilverSneakers fitness classes for seniors. The rec center started the program in 2010 with about 10 participants, and SilverSneakers-certified personal trainer Rayna Hale said it has grown to 200 to 300 seniors a week and there are additional fitness instructors.

“Every year, it gets bigger,” she said. “It’s an incredible program.”

Her classes include aquatics exercises, yoga, cardio classes and other programs that can be adapted to different ages and abilities, but Hale said most people come to socialize as much as exercise.

SilverSneakers is a nationwide program offered at 13,000 locations across the country, but Hale said many of those locations don’t receive as much local support as the one in Cortez. She attributed part of its growth over the past seven years to consistent support from the rec center staff and the city government. Rec center fitness staff plan to host a celebration of SilverSneakers’ 25th anniversary during the last week of October.

Cortez is also home to one of the headquarters for the Montezuma County Senior Services Center, which also has locations in Dolores and Mancos. Senior Services staff provide meals to 20 to 35 people per day at the Cortez location, and volunteers deliver meals to about 40 homes per day through the Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program. The Cortez location also offers social activities most days of the week, including yoga classes, dances, bingo nights and field trips to attractions all over the region. It also funds small home repair projects and basic home health care services for elderly residents through various state and federal grants.

Lori Thompson, supervisor of the Senior Center’s nutrition program, said she feels her department “(does) really well” in serving retirees, especially in Cortez, which has the county’s largest elderly population. But she added that there is room for improvement, especially for the growing Meals on Wheels program.

“We are in desperate need of volunteers,” she said.

Cortez also has multiple retirement homes, and a growing number of medical facilities for seniors. Construction began in July on a new memory care facility – BeeHive Homes of Cortez Homestead – which owner Jan Gardner expects to finish by December.

On the SmartAsset study, Cortez didn’t fare as well in the other two categories as it did in recreation. The town currently has about three doctors offices per 1,000 people, compared with 4.7 in Glenwood Springs, which ranked 10th in the medical care category.

Cortez retirees who make an average of $35,000 per year pay an average of 20.2 percent of their earnings in sales and income taxes, compared with 18.9 percent in Firestone, which the study ranked 10th in the state in the tax burden category.

Overall, the study showed Littleton as the best place to retire in Colorado, with an average 19 percent annual tax rate, 9.1 doctors’ offices per 1,000 people and 0.7 retirement centers per 1,000 people.

The SmartAsset study was based primarily on information from the Census Bureau.

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