Welcome to The Gray Zone: Stories Connected to North Denver’s Older Adults

The 72nd session of the Colorado General Assembly kicked off Jan. 8, but the Colorado Senior Lobby (CSL) didn’t start its work that day. Like our elected representatives, this group works year-round to prepare for the annual 120 days of lawmaking at the Colorado State Capitol from January to May. These folks, though, are volunteers, and there is an open invitation to join them.

Kathryn White

CSL digs into issues affecting Colorado’s older adults, and works — often in conjunction with groups with intersecting interests — to influence, support or oppose bills that are making their way through the state legislature. During the 2019 session, CSL was involved with bills impacting everything from housing affordability to prescription drug pricing and access. 

Jeanette Hensley, CSL’s Legislative Committee Co-Chair, expects housing and health care bills to take a prominent place again this session and described a handful of bills that are already on their radar. One would assist geriatricians serving in rural areas with student loan repayment; another would extend automatic annual Medicaid reimbursement rate increases beyond nursing homes to include assisted living facilities and home health agencies. She also expects to see a bill to create a state fund to defray transportation costs for Coloradans on dialysis.

CSL meets every Monday morning during the legislative session to study bills, form opinions and outline strategies. The group spends the remainder of the week following these bills, attending House or Senate committee hearings, and visiting with state representatives and senators. 

Scroll down to learn more about two property tax relief programs for seniors and veterans.

In December, hoping to increase the number of citizens involved in the process, CSL held an in-depth citizen lobbyist training at a high-tech space called Senior Planet located a few doors down from Copper Door Coffee Roasters in Hangar 2 at Lowry. A handful also joined the training remotely using Zoom technology. The training described the state’s legislative process, using recent challenges and accomplishments to illustrate. 

CSL mentioned paid industry-affiliated lobbyists (many in health care, such as the pharmaceutical industry) as a powerful influence that overshadowed the interests of older adults. CSL hopes to increase its numbers and presence this session, fostering a larger more influential base of older Coloradans whom lawmakers can tap, as an alternative to industry lobbyists, when trying to navigate the hundreds of bills coming across their desks.

North Denver older adults are invited to attend CSL’s Monday meetings, join and become voting members, and attend CSL’s A Capitol Affair event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 at the Colorado State Capitol. The day will include presentations by elected officials and advocacy specialists, tips for advocating, pre-arranged personal visits with elected officials, a Capitol tour and perhaps even committee hearings.  

And, as always, when you learn about a bill you’d like to speak with your representative or senator about, give them a call, email them or stop by the Capitol. Hensley recommends getting to know your lawmakers, becoming informed, and sharing what’s important to you.

The Details

Colorado General Assembly Contacts

Property Tax Season is Coming

The State of Colorado offers two property tax relief programs for seniors and veterans. The first is a deferral program that operates as a loan and is logged as a lien against the participant’s property; the other is a 50 percent exemption on the tax for the first $200,000 of your home’s value. The State distributes funds to counties for this exemption. 

For seniors, eligibility requires you to be over the age of 65 (or the surviving spouse of someone who previously qualified for the exemption), and to have owned and occupied your property as your primary residence for 10 or more years. The Denver County Assessor’s office website states that the application window opened Jan. 2, 2020, for an exemption of taxes due in 2021. The Assessor’s office can be reached at 720-913-4162.

Additionally, the City of Denver operates the income-qualifying Denver Property Tax Relief Program for seniors. This fund provides a partial refund for taxes already paid; the application deadline is April 30. Call Denver Human Services at 720-944-4347 to learn more.

Kathryn has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She teaches a SilverSneakers fitness class at Highland Senior Recreation Center and facilitates Simplified Pickleball and a Caregiver Support Group for the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter. Do you have story ideas for The Gray Zone? Email thegrayzone.denvernorthstar@gmail.com


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