A group of citizens who are studying whether there is enough interest in south Big Horn County to pursue the development of a private-pay, independent living facility for seniors has been emboldened by the results of a recent survey that was conducted in the community.
Bill Hayes, a member of the Big Horn Citizens for Economic Development, said the survey was widely distributed, appearing as an insert in the Basin and Greybull newspapers as well as at 20 public venues and businesses throughout the area during the month of May.
The group received 162 responses. The message was clear, said the organization’s president, Stan Flitner. Overwhelmingly — to the tune of 158 votes — those who responded indicated support, with almost all indicating the desire to stay in the community throughout retirement as a major factor. But respondents also raised good questions and concerns. Two people fell in the “maybe” column and the other two opposed it.
“It will take quite a bit of work to understand if such a project is feasible for our area,” said Flitner.
The state’s demographic records indicate that Big Horn County’s median age is about 45, with both a significant number of young people and older family members approaching the age where they might seek out an “independent living” facility that allows them to stay close to loved ones.
Audra Crouse, one of the group’s board members, said “the demographics of our area suggest than an independent living facility would be supported; we want to reach out in many different ways to find out if that’s the case.”
The survey results revealed that citizens want to know their options, are understandably sensitive to cost, and in some cases ready to discuss pets, cooking, transportation and proximity to other facilities.
“Those are all important factors,” said Hayes, the group’s vice president. The group’s next steps are to visit the management and facilities of homes in Wyoming and elsewhere that are similar to what might work in Big Horn County.
Big Horn County Citizens for Economic Development is a recently-formed group of longer-term residents and property owners with leadership experience in agriculture, minerals, finance, public service and professional services.
“We want to help the community evaluate different ways to preserve what we love about life here, and to make it sustainable for many years,” said Flitner.
The group plans to share the details of the messages received on the survey with a number of organizations and gatherings in the area as they prepare to make site visits and consider if the grants, private pay and financing structures used elsewhere can be applied in Big Horn County. The group plans to engage the community later this year, perhaps in more detailed focus groups.
Comments and questions can be sent to Box 134 Shell, WY 82441.