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Community Supports

Most older adults want to age in place and remain in their communities. To do so successfully, it is important to have a variety of services and supports to help them meet their basic daily and health needs. Some examples of improving aging in place in rural communities include community support programs such as adult day care centers, home-delivered meals, older adult fitness clubs, and senior centers.

Adult Day Care Centers

Adult day care is a community-based service, usually offered in a center setting, that provides a safe location for older adults who cannot be home alone during the day and who may need help with basic daily activities. In addition to helping older adults, these programs help caregivers who may need to work during the day. Adult day care centers provide a variety of activities and services, including assistance with medical care, transportation, and recreational and social activities designed to help keep older adults cognitively and physically active.

Home-Delivered Meals

For older adults who live at home, but are unable to cook or go grocery shopping independently, home-delivered meals are essential to being able to age in place. The most common home-delivered meal service for older adults is Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels helps older individuals by delivering hot meals to those 60 years and older up to three times a week who are homebound and “nutritionally at-risk.” This program addresses barriers due to geographic distance to grocery stores, limited transportation, and larger populations of older adults in rural areas.

Fitness Opportunities

In order for older adults in rural areas to remain healthy and active, it is important for them to have opportunities to engage in safe physical activity. This can be more challenging in rural areas, where there are fewer sidewalks, parks, and recreational facilities. However, communities can find creative ways to create indoor walking programs, such as in shopping malls or other community centers, that can be especially useful during winter months. Fitness clubs can provide older adults with exercise opportunities that can benefit them both physically and socially.

Senior Centers

The senior citizen center model was developed in 1965 under the Older Americans Act. Today, there are roughly 11,500 senior centers in the United States. Senior centers are located in communities and provide a variety of services to meet medical, social, nutritional, and recreational needs of older adults. In rural areas where there are fewer social services available, seniors centers can play an especially important role in helping older adults to age in place.

Resources to Learn More

Adult Day Services Fill in the Gaps
Document
Discusses the valuable role of adult day centers and how they offer services and supports that help keep seniors living at home and offer education and respite for family caregivers.
Author(s): Johnson, M.R.
Organization(s): LeadingAge
Date: 6/2014

Meals on Wheels America
Website
Provides an overview of Meals on Wheels, locates providers, describes how to take action by volunteering or being an advocate, discusses issues and provides research material, and also has local program resources.

Moving Ahead: Strategies and Tools to Plan, Conduct, and Maintain Effective Community-Based Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults
Document
Provides strategies and tools to promote healthy aging by planning and conducting community-based physical activity programs for older adults. The source also shares specific program examples and tips for rural areas.
Author(s): Belza B., PRC-HAN Physical Activity Conference Planning Workgroup
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Date: 2007