Parachute, Colorado. Denver. Washington, D.C. Residents at Golden West’s assisted living center, which closed last week, have scattered across the state and even the country, severing ties with a community where many expected to live out their lives.
Golden West, a Boulder-based nonprofit, announced in January it was shutting down the assisted living home, located at 1055 Adams Circle, due to financial reasons. The closure took effect on March 4.
All of the assisted living center’s 33 residents, many of whom require daily care for underlying health conditions, such as dementia, have since moved out, according to the organization.
The transition has been challenging, according to residents and staff. Golden West’s assisted living home, known as the Mezzanine, was the last one in the City of Boulder that accepted Medicaid. Many residents struggled to find another place they could afford.
“The mission was accomplished,” Daniel Wentworth, a 67-year-old Army veteran who moved into the assisted living center about a year ago, said of the closure. “But with a lot of personal grief.”
Wentworth, who has Stage 4 cancer, said he has moved into Golden West’s independent living home, the Towers. He said he was lucky. His family lives nearby and so does his caregiver.
“I landed fine. But it was a shock,” he said. “Everybody has been pushing hard to try to find places to live.”
In all, three residents moved into Golden West’s independent living. Another six stayed in the City of Boulder. Four moved to Longmont, where some are now living at Cinnamon Park, an assisted living home.
Most of the rest have scattered across the state. A group of a dozen people relocated to Bethesda Gardens, an assisted living home in Loveland. Others have gone to Centennial and Arvada. One person moved to D.C. to be closer to family. And one died after the announcement of the closure was made, according to Golden West.
Mike Morrison moved his sister, who has cerebral palsy, and his mother, who is 92 and experiencing memory loss, out of the Mezzanine and into a nursing home in Arvada.
“They’re safe. I’m relieved,” Morrison said. “I lucked out.”
He said he tried to get them into the Towers, where they would be closer and could have their own rooms. But they did not earn enough money to qualify, he said, as they are both relying on Social Security. (Golden West requires residents to show an annual income of about $27,000 to qualify for one of its studio apartments.)
Morrison said it will take time for his mother and sister to adjust. Instead of living in separate studios at Golden West, they now share a single “hospital-sized” room. “They are adapting,” he said. “It’s better every week.”
Golden West was founded in 1965 with the purpose of providing affordable housing to older adults. Some of the residents have built a community and support system over years. Residents said they were sharing phone numbers with each other with the hope of staying in touch, regardless of where they landed.
“It’s very emotional and heartbreaking,” Chief Administrative Officer Donna Ruske, who has worked at Golden West for 30 years, said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being a true community. And so having to close part of our community, it hurts.”
About 20 employees were laid off in the process of the closure. Ruske said most were able to find new jobs. She said all but a couple stayed on until the last day to help residents transition, even though they knew they were losing their jobs.
John Torres served as Golden West’s CEO for 26 years before retiring in March 2020. He took over early this year as the interim chief executive officer after the resignation of John McCarthy, who served in the role from March 2020 to January 2023. Torres helped oversee the closure of the Mezzanine.
“I couldn’t ask for a better outcome, under the circumstances,” Torres said of the transition. “I’m feeling pretty good that we relocated everybody within the 60-day window.”
As part of the closure, the dining hall, which some residents at the Towers relied on for daily meals and social gatherings, has also shuttered. Torres said there are no immediate plans to find a replacement.
City officials previously told Boulder Reporting Lab they had pitched ideas to prevent the closure, including providing city funding or housing vouchers to subsidize the cost of the residents who live there. But the offers were not enough to keep the assisted living home open, Torres said. In the last year alone, at least four assisted living homes in Boulder County have closed, according to county officials.
Joan Raderman, founder and program director for Circle of Care, a local nonprofit that provides cultural programs for older adults, said on Tuesday she was planning to deliver loafs of bread from Breadworks, a bakery and cafe in Boulder’s Ideal Market, to the Towers.
She said talks of bringing in food trucks or registering tenants for Meals on Wheels services have not yet come to fruition. “That’s why I’m schlepping bread. It’s just emergency food so that nobody goes hungry.”
She said she is overwhelmed, appalled and heartbroken that the city, county and state did not put a stop to the closure.
Her organization has been working with residents at Golden West for more than a decade. She said the residents include former CU Boulder professors and others who have lived and worked in Boulder for decades.
“These people served our community,” she said. “And we are now casting them out.”