Empty Stocking Fund: Silver Key Senior Services | news

Silver Key Senior Services started with a dream, but over the past 52 years it has grown into an organization that provides full service to 11,000 seniors annually. Silver Key is what Chief Marketing Officer Derek Wilson calls “a one-stop shop” that serves seniors from all neighborhoods and walks of life.

“We ultimately want to be seen as the go-to place for elder services, regardless of income or anything else,” Wilson said.

In the US, suicide rates have historically been highest among seniors with undiagnosed depression.

“As a culture, we’re obsessed with youth and looking young, and that’s seen as valuable and rewarding,” Wilson said. “There’s something beautiful about getting older, it should be celebrated rather than considered done.”

Wilson argues that it’s important that communities remember the elderly, who are often trapped, cut off, or forgotten. Every third senior dies from some kind of dementia and becomes one of the most vulnerable in society.

“Aging affects us all,” Wilson said. “There is no one who is exempt from this. Of all things in life, the one universal experience of old age.”

It is this universal truth that drives Wilson, his 80+ colleagues and 600 volunteers.

In North America there is only one other organization that provides seniors with all services from housing assistance, meals, transportation, pantry, companion services and advanced care planning.

While Silver Key remains dedicated to its customers and community, the pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic has not eased. During COVID, seniors were hit the hardest as they were thought to be the most vulnerable.

“Everyone was considered homebound, and everyone was entitled to meals on wheels,” Wilson said. “It took almost two years.”

Requests for Silver Key’s services have doubled or tripled during COVID, and while federal funding and community donations have helped bridge the gap, the number of seniors who need services has not decreased.

“People have forgotten,” Wilson lamented, “but all these people are still being served. We’re down to 2019 funding levels, but we have 2020 service levels. With Meals on Wheels, we serve 3,000 meals a month, but we only have funds for 1,000. That is not sustainable.”

Silver Key recently acquired the Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance and will cut the ribbon in November to open the new center as the start of their initiative to expand throughout Colorado Springs.

“We have to go where people need us,” Wilson said. “We need more locations where people stay so they don’t have to commute long distances. None of this is just going to happen.”

Founder Betsey Meyers-Burroughs’ dream may have changed over the years, but her dedication to treating seniors like family — to serve instead of family — hasn’t.

While these vital community services are free for seniors, they are not free.

“Aging affects us all,” Wilson said. “But what we do requires money. We need the community.”