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Aging in Place in Rural Communities

Older adults are valuable members of rural communities and should be supported in their desire to age in place. However, aging in place in rural communities comes with unique challenges and opportunities. Although rural communities are home to a higher proportion of older residents, rural communities provide fewer services than metro core communities in categories such as:

  • Healthcare
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Civic engagement
  • Human services

While rural areas offer many benefits, supporting aging in place may require more careful planning and coordination than in urban settings.

Most older adults would like to remain in their homes and communities, but the physical changes brought on by aging can impact their capacity to age in place successfully. Additionally, many older adults are burdened by the cost of paying for their housing. Rural seniors who cannot stay in their own homes for physical or financial reasons have fewer housing and rental options than seniors who live in urban areas. Rural seniors who rent their housing are more likely to experience problems with housing affordability than those who own their homes. This may make it difficult for rural older adults to stay in their community as they age.

There are a few options to help alleviate housing issues in rural America including reverse mortgages, resident-owned manufactured housing communities, and assisted living facilities. However, these may be cost-prohibitive for lower-income older adults. In addition to difficulty affording housing and housing shortages in rural America, if an older adult has physical limitations, they may find that their housing is ill-suited for living independently. It is important to be able to transform homes and communities so that seniors can age with options. This toolkit will provide some program models and strategies to do just that.

Resources to Learn More

Helping Rural Seniors Age in Place
Provides state-level strategies for supporting growing numbers of older adults aging in rural communities.
Author(s): Ewing, J.
Organization(s): National Conference of State Legislatures
Date: 9/2014

Planning for the Aging Population: Rural Responses to the Challenge
This document provides and overview of some of the main demographic issues related to aging rural populations, as well as examples of program models to help support older adults in rural areas.
Organization(s): National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)
Date: 10/2012

Safely Aging in Place in Rural America
Describes some of the key issues related to aging in place in rural America, as well as strategies that can help support older adults living in rural communities.
Author(s): Schroeder, M.
Location: U.S. News & World Report
Date: 12/2016