Aging in a Rural Community

Topics: Gerontology, Population, Old age Pages: 6 (2088 words) Published: June 3, 2013
Aging in a Rural Community
Wanda W. Jones
Webster University

Living and aging in a rural community has many challenges. The aging of America in rural communities has gone from being the prominent lifestyle of American citizens to approximately a quarter of the country living in rural areas. Because elders prefer to remain in their homes and age in place, living in rural communities presents barriers that are not easily overcome. Transportation is a critical component of aging in place. In addition to providing access, the task of even providing affordable health and supportive serves in rural areas can be overwhelming and even non-existent. Even in all the obstacles to aging in place in a rural community, many of the aged adults find joy, peace and oneness with nature in remaining.

The United States is seeing a significant increase in citizens aged 65+ which is anticipated to double between 2003 and 2030 from 36 million to 72 million (Collins, 2011). This massive increase is due to the generation of those people born between 1946 and 1964, and referred to as the Baby Boomer generation (Collins, 2011). One fifth of those aged 65 and over are living in rural areas (Sun, 2011) and that is expected to increase (Peterson, Bazemore, Bragg, Xierali, & Warshaw, 2011). The U.S. Census defines a rural area as having a population of 2,500 or less and an urban area having populations of 2,500 or more (Bulter, 2006), “population density must be less than 500 people per square mile” (Bulter & Cohen, The Importance of Nature in the Well-Being of Rural Elders, 2010). A review of the U.S. Census reveals that the first census in 1790, 95% of the population resided in rural areas. In 1890, a hundred years later, the population in rural areas had changed to two-thirds and only one quarter of the population lived in rural areas in 1990 (Bulter, 2006). The rural population of older adults (14.7%) are more than the older adults (11.9%) living in the city (Sun, 2011). Older Adults live more in rural areas in the South (12%) than in the rest of the country (6%) (Dye, Willoughby, & Battisto, 2011). Aging in place is a term to describe that “older adults prefer to remain independently within their own homes” as long as possible (Dye, Willoughby, & Battisto, 2011). Aging in place is very important to older adults and the rural elderly have an “attachment to place” of home and community, more so (Dye, Willoughby, & Battisto, 2011). The “legacy of home place” brings a unique understanding to rural elderly based on their history to their land, community and homes with their ethic or cultural connections (Dye, Willoughby, & Battisto, 2011). Three aspects of aging in place include the home the person lives in, the network of the community and the available services and support to them (Feist, Parker, Howard, & Hugo, 2012) Aging in rural areas provide both benefits and difficulties to aging in place (Butler & Eckart, 2007). In rural areas, older adults are generally, less educated, incomes are lower and live in more substandard housing (Butler & Eckart, 2007). With fewer sources of income, the rural elder depends more on transfer payments, such as Social Security than those in the city (Bulter, Low-income, Rural Elders' Preceptions of Financial Security and Helath Care Costs, 2006). Older residents of rural areas tend to have more health problems, live in poverty and healthcare and health resources limited (Dye, Willoughby, & Battisto, 2011). Chronic conditions among the rural aged seem to be more prevalent (Butler & Eckart, 2007). This could have grave consequences, as “the rural elders are in the oldest-old category” compared to urban elders (Bulter, Low-income, Rural Elders' Preceptions of Financial Security and Helath Care Costs, 2006). The aging network of benefits, not limited to “financial assistance, home health care, nutrition, and social services” supported by...

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