Kristine Burrows has dedicated a big chunk of her young life to old age. She earned a master’s degree with a focus on leadership and healthy aging from the Colorado School of Public Health in 2018, launched a statewide day program for older adults with disabilities through the Lakewood chapter of national nonprofit Easterseals, and eventually worked as director of aging, care, and connections for the Jewish Family Service of Colorado. So when the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS) started hiring for a new role last year—senior specialist on aging—Burrows was the ideal candidate.

The position wasn’t just any job-board gig, though. Its genesis was rooted in a bill that went into effect in March 2022: the modernization of the Older Coloradans’ Act. The act, which was updated for the first time in more than 50 years, called for a liaison within DHS to connect state and local agencies with the department. That level of legislative action is crucial: Twenty-one percent of Colorado’s population will be over the age of 60 by 2030, an increase of 32 percent from 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Colorado’s population of older adults is also projected to double to 1.7 million people by 2050, according to the Colorado Health Institute, making the state’s aging population the second-fastest growing in the nation (behind Alaska).

Kristine Burrows
Kristine Burrows. Photo by Sarah Banks

There’s an adage—frequently attributed to Bette Davis—that says aging is not for sissies. The actress was likely referencing the degradation of the human body, but these days, that indignity is joined by a host of others: age discrimination, barriers to finding health care, and a lack of affordable housing. So while it’s laudable that the Older Coloradans’ Act was updated in the face of a growing senior population, it’s now Burrows’ job to put together a blueprint for the state on how to tackle aging care. “The biggest part of my role is to create a multisector plan on aging,” Burrows says, something only five other states in the country are currently developing. While her work remains in its infancy, she expects to complete the first draft of Colorado’s 10-year multisector plan—which will address health care, transportation, and housing, among other things—within the next year.

In the meantime, private organizations throughout Colorado are also stepping up to help older adults work through the positives and negatives of accumulating so many years. Peter Kaldes, president and CEO of Denver-based Next50, a foundation that funds aging-focused organizations throughout the region, says Colorado’s private aging organizations are at the forefront of the field. “Nationally, Colorado has earned a really nice reputation for being thoughtful and progressive when it comes to doing innovative aging work,” Kaldes says.

And while Burrows will likely spend the next decade redrafting and updating the state’s multisector plan, her job description boils down to one simple idea. “Aging is living, and my work is to help people live the best lives that they can,” she says. In other words, we’re all aging. In the following pages, we outline some of the people, organizations, and initiatives that are helping all of us age a little more comfortably in the Centennial State.

Jump Ahead:

A Look at Local Area Agencies on Aging

When the federal Older Americans Act was updated in 1973, local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) were founded throughout the country to ensure that those in their golden years can live independently in their communities while still accessing critical resources. More than 600 AAAs exist in the United States; 16 are located in Colorado and are funded by the state’s Department of Human Services. These, in turn, provide those 60 and older with access to things such as community meal sites, health and wellness classes, and transportation services. Because the needs of older adults vary depending on where in Colorado they reside, we took a look at resources provided by five AAAs throughout the state, along with challenges they face in providing that crucial support.

Denver Metro Area Agency on Aging

While older adults living in the metro area usually have access to health care and public transportation, Next50’s Peter Kaldes says a big challenge in Denver is reaching underserved populations, such as people of color, low-income individuals, or the unhoused. That’s why, earlier this year, Denver’s AAA entered into a 15-month-long national Health Equity Learning Cooperative with 19 other organizations throughout the country. Through the program, Denver’s AAA staff will partner with clinicians from Denver Health to screen Medicare recipients and connect them with community services they could qualify for, all in an effort to make sure every older Denverite gets the most care possible.

Lower Arkansas Valley Area Agency on Aging

Approximately 20 percent of people living in the six counties that comprise the Lower Arkansas Valley AAA are older than 65. The AAA there provides legal services, devices for the visually impaired like magnifiers and talking watches, and a meal delivery program. In the town of Bristol in Prowers County, Next50 is partly funding the construction of the only community center for older adults in the area, which, when completed later this year, will be the town’s first new building in more than a century and will offer art therapy and an intergenerational community garden targeting the area’s youth and seniors. “It’s interesting to see a town choose to make the investment in bringing older adults together,” Kaldes says. “The rural community can be isolating.”

East Central Area Agency on Aging

In the sparsely populated counties of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, public transportation is almost nonexistent, and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft don’t operate. That leaves older adults who can’t drive with few options when they need to get to medical appointments or the grocery store. One potential fix: The East Central AAA offers a bus system called the Outback Express to shuttle residents, including older adults, living in the area, but the 12 or so buses operate on a part-time schedule, and finding staff to drive them has been difficult. According to Sean Vanous, senior and transit services director for the East Central AAA, new buses will be added to the fleet this year, and none of them require CDL licenses to drive, which means anyone with a typical driver’s license can operate them. “But finding staff who can drive them is still tough,” he says. “There’s a lot of folks out here who need transportation.”

San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging

Among the five counties in southwestern Colorado, nearly 26 percent of the total population is older than 65. There, the San Juan Basin AAA connects seniors with the usual resources, like Medicare counseling and home chore assistance, but also recently undertook the construction of four new grow domes. Completed in October 2023 and staffed by trained horticulturists, these greenhouses grow fresh produce for older adults in the region. One of the domes, located on Ute Mountain Ute tribal land in Towaoc, provides fresh food specifically for the local senior center. “I don’t know of any other program like this in the state,” says Christina Knoell, executive director of the San Juan Basin AAA, “so it’s really unique and exciting for us.”

Region 10 Area Agency on Aging

Composed of counties near Colorado’s western border, Region 10 offers volunteer-run programs to keep older adults in their own homes longer. The Region 10 AAA’s Senior Companion Program pairs volunteers with aging Centennial Staters to combat loneliness and help with light housekeeping. Volunteers also install stair railings or change smoke detector batteries to keep seniors safe at home. In Delta County, Next50 helped fund the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition, based in Paonia, which will create the area’s first art program for older adults, complete with classes and supplies.

3 Ways to Modify Your Favorite Exercises as You Age

Older adult cycling
Getty Images

Ten out of 10 doctors agree: Staying active as you get older is a key to aging well. Coloradans are no strangers to outdoor recreation, but with each wrinkle, skiing those black diamonds can get more difficult. That’s why we asked three medical professionals how you might accommodate your changing body without sacrificing your favorite activity. (Make sure to consult your doc first, though.)


  • The problem: You can’t keep your balance like you used to.
  • The solution: Slow down the pace with which you move from one pose to another; just keep your limits in mind and ask your instructor for pose modifications if necessary.
  • Extra credit: Hillary Joseph, a physical therapist and owner of Denver’s Blue Sky Physical Therapy, says doing balance exercises throughout the day (like standing on one foot while you brush your teeth) can improve your balance over time.


  • The problem: The joints in your knees and ankles hurt on the way down.
  • The solution: Avoid moguls and stick to groomed, gentle slopes, which will put less strain on your achy joints.
  • Extra credit: Patrick Donovan, a physical therapist at Glendale’s Heather Lane Physical Therapy, says counter-assisted hop squats, where you hold onto a counter and take small hops, can help get you mogul-ready again. He also stresses you are not doomed to surgery: “Just because your neighbor had a knee replacement due to arthritis doesn’t mean that’ll be the case for everyone,” he says.


  • The problem: You find yourself stopping for more oxygen and muscle breaks than you want to.
  • The solution: Opt for an electric bike, which can take over when your legs—or lungs—get too tired.
  • Extra credit: Dr. Thomas Johnson, a geriatric medicine practitioner with CU Medicine, says, “Sometimes we just need to take a break if our body is running out of energy.” He recommends working your way (back) up to more cardio-heavy trails slowly and accommodating your body’s needs over your brain’s desires..

The Struggle to Access Medical Care from Rural Areas

Illustration by Stephan Schmitz

Searching for solitude and mountain views, Darcy (who asked that her real name be withheld to protect her privacy) moved in 2003 to Red Feather Lakes, an unincorporated town in Larimer County about an hour from Fort Collins. At the time, the town of around 500 people had a health clinic run by a local doctor who would treat minor ailments like cuts and sprains. But when the clinic shuttered in 2012, residents of Red Feather Lakes (more than 45 percent of whom are over the age of 60) were left in the middle of a health care desert. “Most of us have to make the trek to Fort Collins for care, which can be a hassle,” says Darcy, who is now in her mid-70s.

Darcy’s situation in Red Feather Lakes isn’t unique. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, rural areas tend to have higher proportions of older adults compared to urban areas. Case in point: Some 90 percent of older Coloradans wish to age in place at home, according to the National Council on Aging. And while less populated areas provide the quiet life many seniors are seeking, rural geographies often don’t offer enough health care providers, according to research from Colorado State University.

That’s why the Innovations in Aging Collaborative, a Colorado Springs–based nonprofit that helped the city develop a more age-friendly community design in 2020, recently expanded its work to the entire Pikes Peak region, which includes all of El Paso County. Last year, executive director Erin Maruzzella, her team, and local stakeholders like government leaders and city residents created an extensive plan with 60 actionable steps—such as developing age-focused training for health care organizations, creating a network of informal community caregivers willing to check in on seniors in need, and improving access to fitness programs for older adults—with the goal of completing the action plan by 2028. Funded in part by private donations and grants, the nonprofit reached 90 percent of the goals it outlined in its initial action plan for Colorado Springs, a fact Maruzzella says makes her hopeful that she and her team can reach the vast majority of the benchmarks they’ve set for their expanded coverage area.

Although the Innovations in Aging Collaborative works in El Paso County and Area Agencies on Aging serve their respective regions throughout the state, programs that specifically target Colorado’s rural locations—where nearly 14 percent of Coloradans older than 65 live—are limited. “We’re having trouble finding enough people to work in rural communities, which means those adults aren’t getting access to any resources,” says the Department of Human Services’ senior specialist on aging, Kristine Burrows. The reasons for that are myriad. Burrows notes that there’s an economy of scale problem: It doesn’t make financial sense for a specialist to set up shop in a smaller town. Plus, in-home health workers are not usually paid enough to make the commute. The result is that many older Coloradans might be foregoing essential preventive care or driving significant distances to access it. “One of my neighbors passed away from cancer that started as just a little thing in her mouth,” says Darcy, adding that her friend didn’t believe getting the small sore checked out was worth the lengthy drive to the city. “She didn’t think much of it at first, but it was eventually the end of her.”

While Darcy would consider moving closer to town at some point in the future, she doesn’t see it happening anytime soon. “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, and I don’t want my kids to worry about me [up here],” she says. “But as long as I can stay here, I want to stay here. They’ll probably have to carry me out.”

The Fight to End Workplace Ageism

Janine Vanderburg has worked to end workplace ageism through her Colorado-based national nonprofit, Changing the Narrative, which receives funding through Next50. We asked Vanderburg, who is now a senior strategist for the organization she founded in 2018, what ageism in the office looks like today.

Janine Vanderburg
Janine Vanderburg. Photo by Sarah Banks

5280: Why is combating ageism so important to you?
Janine Vanderburg: When I took on this initiative, I was not prepared to be heartbroken by the stories I heard from folks my age about trying to live off $600 a month in Social Security while “help wanted” signs were everywhere. There’s proven research that shows that having a group of employees that are diverse in age is just as beneficial as racial and gender diversity. Last year, Harvard Business Review released study results showing that women are never the right age for leadership in the workplace. You’re either too young or you have kids and you’re seemingly too busy attending soccer games, and next thing you know you’re going through menopause and you’re just too old. It’s absolutely unfair.

What does ageism in the workplace typically look like?
It often starts in the hiring process, which is why we worked on advocating for Colorado’s Job Application Fairness Act. Even though it’s illegal to discriminate based on age, employers will sometimes ask for a graduation date on a job application. Employers in Colorado won’t be able to do that on an initial application as of July 2024. Other times, employers will put out a job description saying something like “I want a digital native,” and you can’t be a digital native if you didn’t grow up with a cell phone. When you’re on the job, it can look like people stopping by your desk and saying things like, “You’re not retired yet?” It can look like not being invited to meetings you used to be invited to or not being invited to development courses teaching new software. Sometimes it’s obvious, but other times it can be really subtle.

How can employers avoid ageism?
They should remove age identifiers from applications. Also, hiring managers should be trained on implicit bias. We all have bias, but knowing about it can help us look past it. Hiring teams should also be intergenerational. A friend of mine who has years of experience in marketing was told by a hiring team that they went with a younger candidate because they felt like that candidate would be better at social media. She didn’t pursue legal action on them even though she probably could have, but if they had just looked at her social media, they would have seen how creative and innovative her ideas are.

5 Tips for Sprucing Up Your Resumé and Interviewing for a Job

At 62 years old, Lisa Jensen was laid off from the organization she worked at for 23 years. When she began searching for work, she learned the rules of resumé engagement had changed. Today, Jensen is the career services program manager of Workforce Boulder County, a government organization that helps county residents find employment. We asked her for the tips and tricks older Coloradans need to know before hitting send on that CV.

  1. As impressive as your 30-year work history may be, short-attention-spanned hiring managers don’t want to see all of it. Keep only relevant experience and cut the rest. It should fit on two pages at most.
  2. Don’t forget to convert your document to a PDF. (Google it, if you have to.) Jensen noticed that when her Microsoft Word document was uploaded to the applicant portal and viewed from a phone, it looked like a mess. Even better: Use a simple resumé template (we recommend those found on Word) and fill it out, which will prevent your page from getting too cluttered.
  3. Avoid putting details on your resumé that will call out your age, like a photo or a graduation year (which employers won’t be legally allowed to ask for as of July 2024). While the interviewer will eventually realize you’re an older adult, getting to the actual interview where you can show yourself off is an important first step.
  4. Skip the follow-up phone calls, which can now be seen as a nuisance. Instead, send the interviewers a polite (and short!) email thanking them for their time.
  5. Seek out local resources and expertise. “People tend to think of workforce centers as for the down and out,” Jensen says, “but we serve everyone.”

4 Learning Opportunities for Colorado Seniors

Semester at Sea boat
Semester at Sea. Photo courtesy of Semester at Sea

Whether older adults are looking to break into a career field or just find a productive way to spend their time, these four educational organizations in Colorado offer learning opportunities targeted toward those who already have a lot of life experience.

1. CU Denver Change Makers Program

  • Founded in: 2023
  • What: Adults thinking about retirement, or those who have recently retired, meet twice a week (once on campus and once virtually) to learn how to navigate life transitions. Students attend lectures with topics ranging from community leadership to planning for long-term health. Plus, students can audit nearly any CU Denver class, meaning they can sit in on art, history, or even engineering courses.
  • Student report card: “I was in the aerospace industry for 34 years, and the program helped me see that there’s a bigger world out there than just the career I had. I can apply my skills to more than just playing golf or pickleball every day,” says 61-year-old Alex Chernushin, who participated in the Change Makers Program during the 2023 fall semester. “I’m now in an accountability group with three other former members, and we still meet every week to check in on each other.”

2. Active Minds

  • Founded in: 2002
  • What: This Denver-based organization dedicated to lifelong learning, founded by former teacher John Henderson and his business partner Zane Robertson, offers free, hourlong classes at various locations throughout the metro area on an eclectic assortment of topics. From the origins of whiskey to the history of the Mongol Empire, the programming is available to all ages, although Active Minds’ primary demographic remains older adults of retirement age.
  • Student report card: “I worked with the U.S. government for 35 years, including as an international diplomat, and have been to 46 countries. I have a great interest in what’s happening in the world, and Active Minds fills that need I have to keep learning,” 85-year-old Ann Tull says. “Some of the classes are online, which is great for those who can’t drive. Having this available has meant all the difference in the world for my happiness.”
Woman using VR
Photo courtesy of OATS/AARP

3. Senior Planet From AARP

  • Founded in: 2004
  • What: Senior Planet is a program run by nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services, which is affiliated with AARP, a nationwide interest group for those 50 and older. With both virtual and in-person classes at the Senior Planet Center in Lowry, students can take technology courses on everything from the fundamentals of Instagram to how to buy a decent laptop. The program is designed for adults over 60.
  • Student report card: “I had just started a job that required me to be computer-literate, but I wasn’t literate, so they laid me off,” says 65-year-old Adeleye Alao, who attends Senior Planet classes with her husband, 74-year-old Ayo. “I dragged my husband along to the [10-week] Computer Basics class, and everyone is so nice that we feel comfortable learning. I still want to work, so when the class is over, I’ll look for jobs again.”

4. Semester at Sea Lifelong Learning Program

  • Founded in: 1986
  • What: Based out of Fort Collins, Semester at Sea is a study-abroad program primarily directed toward undergraduate college students who take a semester to sail to 10 different countries while taking university-level classes on board a passenger ship. Semester at Sea’s Lifelong Learning Program, however, targets an older demographic, inviting them to join students aboard the MV World Odyssey to travel the world while auditing classes. While the program is technically open to anyone over the age of 30, many Lifelong Learners are retirement age—and some, in recent years, have even been in their 90s.
  • Student report card: “I sailed the full fall semester in 2022. I loved it so much I’m now working with them,” says Vera Nicholas, who serves as the program’s coordinator. “At the time, I was recently divorced and in my early 60s and just wanted to go for myself. My voyage started in Amsterdam, and we went to places like Lisbon and Dubai. I took classes like coastal environmental ecology. One night, a school of dolphins started playing near the anchored ship and stayed there all night long. It’s one of my most treasured memories.”

3 Change Makers Doing Cool Things for Colorado’s Older Population

Village on San Juan

Older adult & younger adult women connecting
Photo by Tara Moore/Getty Images

Intentional intergenerational housing is a relatively new housing concept that pairs older adults and young people in one community. According to the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Aging Research and Education, older adults can benefit from increased social engagement and physical positives like increased strength and balance, while younger generations gain increased empathy. That’s the idea behind the Village on San Juan, a Montrose housing community providing supportive housing to at-risk youth and adults over the age of 62.

Created in part by Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 7th Judicial District, the development (which includes 30 supportive housing units) aims to provide a safe and beneficial environment for youth and older adults, with completion scheduled for later this year.

Positive Aging Clinic

The state’s ballooning population of older adults means that a growing number of older Coloradans are living with HIV. In fact, more than half of all people nationwide who have the virus are over the age of 50. Living with the virus means older Coloradans might experience an earlier onset of age-related conditions, like osteoporosis, and they may be more at risk of mental health conditions like depression, too. When an older adult with HIV sees multiple doctors at different practices for different conditions, there’s also a higher chance for miscommunication or medical errors. For instance, a primary care provider who prescribes statins for heart health might not be aware of how that medication could interact with anti-HIV prescriptions.

UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital found a new way to care for older adults living with HIV by opening the Positive Aging Clinic in late 2022. The clinic is one of just a few like it in the country that target both HIV and age-related maladies together, which means older adults now have a one-stop shop for care.

Age-Friendly University Global Network

Statistically speaking, fewer older adults enroll in universities to earn a degree; instead, a 2011 University of Georgia study suggests over-60ers attend college to further their personal growth. That’s why in 2012, Ireland’s Dublin City University started the Age-Friendly University Global Network, an international consortium that bestows its designation upon educational institutions that meet 10 specific principles. Anne Button, director of the CU Denver Change Makers program, spearheaded the university’s initiative to obtain the designation in 2022. Since then, Button and her colleagues have worked to make the campus welcoming of all ages by forming a committee to assess the school’s age diversity, which made courses more age inclusive. For instance, a macroeconomics class will now include units on the economics of the aging population and the labor market. In addition to CU Denver, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and Colorado State University have become Age-Friendly Universities.

This article was originally published in 5280 April 2024.
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and