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Colorado Springs seniors struggling with high cost of living

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

Colorado Springs ranks as a top millennial destination, boasting a faster growth rate than Denver, Seattle and Austin.

The city also offers a strong economy and booming housing market — all great aspects for young people looking to launch their career.

But as that population thrives, we’re looking out for our seniors, who we see beginning to struggle. Living in the city has become increasingly more expensive, even in just the last five years, and that has our seniors like Joyce Manning seriously concerned.

"I don't see a very good future for all of us," Manning said.

After a career in child services, Manning moved to Colorado Springs from California — getting her closer to family and for a better price.

“I realize I have it better here than I would have if I stayed there,” she said.

Still, she's seeing her savings dwindle.

"The prices are going to go up and up, and I don't want to go down,” Manning said. “I want to keep my head above the water and be independent, and not have to depend on the government."

That's why she and several friends go to the Colorado Springs Senior Center. Friendship and free recreation go a long way on a fixed income, as more of her money goes toward rent.

"It's very challenging. You have to plan. You have to know what you're doing, and you have to stretch it out a lot," Manning said.

So, how'd we get here?

Tatiana Bailey, Ph.D., director of the UCCS Economic Forum, said it has to do with the influx of millennials and new businesses, like tech companies.

"Especially for younger people who are early in their career, even if they're in well-paying occupations, they're not at the top of their career yet,” Bailey said. “So, they're looking for a place that's affordable, where they can have a good quality of life. You know, we sort of have that secret sauce right now."

It’s a winning formula used by a plethora of businesses, like Altia, to recruit young employees.

"A lot of it is because they're not limited,” said CEO Mike Juran. “So, they don't have this model of the world that is, more broadly, you know, that's the way things always were, and that's the way we're gonna do it."

It's great news for current employees, but this influx is also a contributing factor in driving costs up across the board.

That, of course, includes housing — one of seniors' biggest concerns — with notable increases even in just the last few years.

"You went from $700 a month for an average rental rate to over $1,000 now. On a fixed income, that's a really, you know, huge barrier for them," Bailey said.

It's one of the main issues the new Colorado Springs Commission on Aging is digging into.

"We need to advocate for seniors, because first of all, they built this community. They've been here forever, and they are aging right next door to us," said Lorri Orwig, a member of the commission.

Right now, the commission is still deciding what issues to focus on first — like affordable housing, public transportation and access to green space. A solid start, say local seniors, in hope of a better future.

"They need to come in here and to other places where seniors are,” Manning said. “I don't want to see them sitting around a boardroom yapping about what do seniors need. They need to be out here asking us what we need, because we know."

As for the solution to helping our seniors, Bailey said having government agencies focused on the issue is a meaningful step in the right direction. But that solution, ultimately, will ideally come from the commission’s work.

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