Golden West is closing its assisted living center, the last to accept Medicaid in the City of Boulder. Credit: John Herrick

Golden West, a Boulder-based nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing to older adults, announced last week it is closing its assisted living facility, citing financial reasons. The closure takes effect March 4. 

The sudden decision to close the Mezzanine, located at 1055 Adams Circle, was made by the organization’s board of directors and announced during a meeting with staff and residents on Jan. 4. In a letter to residents, the organization said the facility was “no longer financially sustainable.” 

It has left evicted residents and their families scrambling to find affordable alternatives in time. They were given a list of other private facilities, most of which are outside of Boulder. The paperwork to secure a bed in a similar location could take months. 

“I’m in a state of dismay,” Daniel Wentworth, a 67-year-old Army veteran who moved into the assisted living center about a year ago, said in an interview. “It took me more than 60 days to go through the process and paperwork to get a space here.” 

Assisted living facilities are an alternative to nursing homes for people who need less medical support. Caregivers at the Mezzanine provide residents with meals, monitor their medication, and do laundry and housekeeping, among other daily tasks. 

The closure of the Mezzanine will exacerbate the dearth of housing options for low-income older adults living in Boulder. The Mezzanine, which has 54 beds, is the last assisted living facility in Boulder that accepts Medicaid. (In the City of Boulder, there are nine assisted living centers, according to the state. Without Medicaid subsidies, the cost of an assisted living studio is at least $5,000 per month.)

Golden West is not planning to close any of its 253 income-restricted independent living apartments, known as the Towers. The organization said it will discontinue its dining program, which provides meals to residents at the Towers and the Mezzanine.

“It was gut-wrenching,” John Torres, the nonprofit’s interim chief executive officer, told Boulder Reporting Lab of the decision. “Our mission was to serve low-income people.” 

Of its 33 residents, 29 rely on Medicaid, according to Torres. All are at least 62 years old. Many have underlying health conditions. Some have lived at the Mezzanine for a decade or more. 

“It’s the middle of winter and there’s not much available,” Wentworth said. “We’re gonna have to move to Fort Collins or Denver or Loveland. We’re going to have to expand our search well outside of Boulder.” 

Wentworth, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, said he wants to stay in Boulder. His family lives here. So does his caregiver. He said the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, where he receives treatment, is about 10 minutes away. 

Other assisted living facilities, if they accept Medicaid, may have waiting lists. State regulations governing admission to assisted living facilities require physical and mental exams. The process can take months. 

Torres said the nonprofit is providing people $750 to help with the transition. Some staff members are helping tenants navigate the move. They can apply to live in Golden West’s independent living apartments, which are about 94% full, according to Torres.

Torres said the decision to give residents two months to move out was based in part on what, he said, Eaton Senior Communities did when it closed its Medicaid certified assisted living residence in Lakewood. State law requires a 30-day notice. 

“If we have folks who are not able to meet that, we’re not going to put them out on the street,” Torres said. “We will work with them.”

‘A perfect storm’

The closure of the Mezzanine comes after Covid-19 rattled the long-term care industry. The facility reported six separate Covid-19 outbreaks to the state health department since 2020. At least one person died with the disease, according to the state data. Earlier in the pandemic, Gov. Jared Polis signed a public health order restricting visits

The fallout from the pandemic and public health measures resulted in fewer people living in long-term care facilities, which for years have struggled to stay open. 

The Mezzanine is operating at about 60% occupancy, according to Torres. The organization has struggled to increase that rate, in part due to a multi-year, nearly $25 million renovation project, Torres said. 

Meanwhile, the cost of labor has been on the rise and Medicaid reimbursement rates are insufficient to cover expenses, Torres added. (Torres said he has lobbied Colorado lawmakers to set higher Medicaid reimbursement rates.) 

To help fill up bed space, the nonprofit launched a public relations campaign to attract residents. A sponsored post in November 2022 in the Daily Camera dubbed Golden West as one of “the most affordable senior living options in Boulder — a timely lifeline this year especially as housing and living expenses have surged.” But the campaign didn’t work. 

“It was sort of a perfect storm,” Torres said. “We ran out of time.”

Torres served as Golden West’s CEO for 26 years before retiring in March 2020. He took over as the interim chief executive officer after the resignation of John McCarthy, who served in the role from March 2020 to January 2023. 

Golden West was founded in 1965 with the purpose of providing affordable housing to older adults. 

“It’s going to be a huge gap in the community,” Torres said of the closure. “We have always been so proud to be able to fill that gap.” 

Last year, two other Medicaid certified assisted living facilities in Boulder closed: the Mary Sandoe House, a 24-bed facility in South Boulder, and Shawnee Gardens, a seven-bed facility in Boulder. Brookdale Boulder Creek, a 90-bed facility in Boulder, recently stopped accepting Medicaid patients, according to the county. 

Boulder Reporting Lab requested a comment from the Boulder County long-term care ombudsperson, who advocates for older adults. In response, Alice Kim, a spokesperson for Boulder County Community Services, said Golden West is “a staple in the community.” 

“Unfortunately, Boulder County does not have much of a role in this since it is a business decision,” Kim wrote in an email. “We know those who cannot live independently would likely need support or to look into nursing home options, which are more expensive and less comfortable for residents. We encourage folks to reach out to their [state] representatives to express concerns around affordable assisted living options in Colorado.” 

Adults over the age of 65 are among the fastest growing age group in Boulder County, according to the U.S. Census. As baby boomers age, that demographic is expected to continue growing over the next decade, according to the state demographer

“Eventually, everybody passes through this,” Wentworth said. “Being able to ensure that those who follow us have a place to go is important.”

Update: We updated this story at 10:20 a.m. on Jan. 9 to indicate Golden West is discontinuing its dining program.

John Herrick

John Herrick reports on housing, climate, health and local government for Boulder Reporting Lab. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for VTDigger.org. He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness.

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11 Comments

  1. This is unconscionable. There must be some city or state funds to help keep this housing open for our elders!!

  2. So why don’t they just raise the rent a few hundred more every month so to hey don’t have to close. Residents will be paying a whole lot more anywhere else IF they can find something.

  3. Huge loss to the community. More affordable housing is a dire necessity. No one should be in the position these people now are.

  4. I have lived in an independent, one-bedroom apartment, in the central tower at Golden West for 17 months. Your article failed to note two things: 1) the dining facilities at Golden West are also being closed down! Apparently this is fallout from the closure of assisted living, since the same kitchen (in the first floor of the central tower) also was preparing meals for assisted living folks. (Meals are not included in independent living). And not enough people in the two towers have been eating the mediocre food in the dining room. Golden West says they will look into alternatives such as food trucks. 2) some 250 people with low incomes will continue to live in the Towers. The minimum age is 62, I’m not sure what the maximum income level is (assets are not counted).

    1. Thanks, Mark. We have updated the story to reflect the closure of the dining facilities. – BRL Editors

  5. Thank you for this comprehensive article regarding a deeply sad situation for Boulder elders. Boulder is fortunate to have caring, experienced eldercare professionals such as John Torres and an outstanding county Ombudsman office, headed by Erica Corson. Every county in Colorado is being affected by a similar confluence of events – -we need state & federal legislation to provide COLA and other adjustments to Medicaid reimbursements.

  6. Attention Golden West;
    I moved into Golden West April 2022 with a feeling good about myself and loving the extra care and attention given by living in Boulder and Golden West.
    Recently, my feelings have changed as so many of our options have been deleted Since Silva-Markum came into the game of who gets the biggest attention of living at Golden West.
    I’m so disappointed at the last minute changes. I look living here.
    Now, I have mixed feelings about what is being deleted or changed to affect my living here at Golden West!
    In my opinion, there are so many other important parts of living here and they are over looked; as if we have no say as to how, what, where, or when there are other changes just waiting for the nut to crack.
    If push comes to shove you know that your closures of important issues for residents will force many independent residents will find other places to live.
    Personally, the scuddle-but in the elevators is the biggest gossip area in Golden West!
    Maybe, business offices need to pay more attention to what is important to residents.
    Especially, number one….Answer emails that come specifically to your attention so after a 4 month waiting period you finally give up: Yep, gossip and more gossip and, NO answers and no one cares!!
    (don’t tell me all emails are answered because that is an out and out lie!)

  7. SooooOOoooo, millions are sent to local and state government to offset the aftershocks of our Covid pandemic, but the city rep says there is nothing they can do to help keep assisted living in Boulder? This is puzzling. Why can we help private restaurants, and other private businesses, but not help keep our aging population in town with their families? I do NOT understand our City Council at all, zero, zip.

  8. I’m in the process of moving from a long-term care facility in Boulder to assisted living in Longmont. I first moved here in 2008, and it’s painfully obvious to me that Boulder is going downhill fast. Luckily for me, my Medicaid combined with SSI will pay for my new private studio apartment just as it has for a shared room with random people who are not desirable as roommates. (Lots of ’em in Boulder . . .) I’d briefly considered Golden West, but decided not to apply, and tha was a good choice as it turns out.

  9. These are our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents and great grandparents we are talking about. This is the population of people that I work with as a CNA. Knowing the fear that they are feeling right now is heartbreaking. Where is the support from our Governor to keep them in their homes.

  10. The building will still be there. There may be options for using it as housing for independent living seniors. I have hope that it will continue to accommodate the needs of this community, even if not as an assisted living facility.

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