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Rural Aging Models and Innovations

These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.

Evidence-Based Examples

Fit & Strong!
Updated/reviewed August 2017
  • Need: Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition which often causes multiple related disabilities in older adults.
  • Intervention: An 8-week physical activity, behavior change, and falls prevention program geared to older adults with osteoarthritis.
  • Results: Participants gained confidence with increased exercise, lessened stiffness, improved joint pain and improved lower extremity strength and mobility.
Telepsychology-Service Delivery for Depressed Elderly Veterans
Added December 2016
  • Need: To treat depression in elderly veterans who are unable to seek mental health treatment due to distance or stigma.
  • Intervention: Telepsychology-Service Delivery for Depressed Elderly Veterans compared providing behavioral activation therapy via telehealth and face-to-face for those with major depressive disorder.
  • Results: A 2015 study and two 2016 studies show that providing treatment via telehealth to elderly veterans in South Carolina resulted in the same health outcomes, quality of life, satisfaction with care, and cost of healthcare as those receiving face-to-face treatment.

Effective Examples

LIFE - Living (well through) Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise
Updated/reviewed November 2017
  • Need: Rural-residing older adults in Iowa have inadequate access to physical activity specialists and/or exercise facilities, which limits their ability to remain sufficiently active.
  • Intervention: Iowa State University implemented an intergenerational “exergaming” program to encourage fun and safe physical fitness among rural older adults.
  • Results: Pilot studies showed that older adults demonstrated increases in strength, flexibility, activity levels, and confidence in their ability to be physically active. Younger adults experienced reduced ageism and increased knowledge and expectations of aging.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Livingston County Help For Seniors
Updated/reviewed August 2016
  • Need: Meeting the health needs of geriatric patients in rural Livingston County, New York.
  • Intervention: The Help for Seniors program was developed and using its “vodcasts,’ local EMTs were trained in geriatric screening methods and health needs treatment.
  • Results: In addition to developing a successful model for educating EMS personnel, the program screened over 1200 individuals and identified various risks among the geriatric population.

Promising Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Community Health Coaches for Successful Care Transitions
Updated/reviewed September 2017
  • Need: To help older patients with chronic conditions learn to manage their illnesses and thereby reduce hospital readmissions in Oconee County, South Carolina.
  • Intervention: Community volunteers trained as health coaches mentor discharged patients with certain chronic conditions, to help them transition from home health care to self-care.
  • Results: Participants had improved health behaviors and reduced readmissions.
Northland PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly)
Updated/reviewed January 2017
  • Need: Older adults who are nursing home eligible need assistance in order to remain living safely and independently in their own homes.
  • Intervention: Northland PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) offers, plans, and coordinates a wide range of healthcare, in-home, and day center services to promote independence at home.
  • Results: Older adults remain safely in their homes for a longer period of time with this support. The PACE program sites in North Dakota work to preserve, enhance, and, in many cases, restore the independence, health, and well-being of their participants.

Other Project Examples

SASH® (Support and Services at Home)
Updated/reviewed November 2017
  • Need: In Vermont, the growing population of older adults, coupled with a lack of a decentralized, home-based system of care management, posed significant challenges for those who wanted to remain living independently at home.
  • Intervention: SASH® (Support and Services at Home), based in affordable housing communities throughout the state, works with community partners to help older adults and people with disabilities receive the care they need so they can continue living safely at home.
  • Results: Compared to their non-SASH peers, SASH participants report better health outcomes like fewer falls, lower rates of hospitalizations, and completion of more advance directives – all of which has the potential of saving millions of dollars.
Rural Resources Diner’s Choice Program
Updated/reviewed October 2017
  • Need: Many older adults are lacking proper nutrition because of an inability to prepare food, lack of financial resources, depression due to social isolation, or general frailty associated with aging.
  • Intervention: The Diner's Choice meal program provides 12 coupons each month to older adults for local restaurants in two rural counties in Washington.
  • Results: Older adults in Pend Oreille and Stevens counties in Washington receive much-needed nutrition and social interaction, leading to healthier lives.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Worcester County Health Department Aging Initiative
Updated/reviewed August 2017
  • Need: Worcester County, Maryland's older residents were experiencing a lack of affordable and easily-accessible in-home care and behavioral health services.
  • Intervention: The Worcester County Health Department created the Aging Initiative project in order to increase access and utilization of home care and behavioral health services for older adults in the area.
  • Results: The Aging Initiative expanded access to home care services, financial assistance for medical equipment, and provided nearly 100 people with behavioral healthcare services.
Health Motivator Program
Added July 2017
  • Need: To increase physical activity and other healthy habits for older adults in West Virginia.
  • Intervention: Members of the community called Health Motivators lead senior centers and community groups in a monthly educational activity.
  • Results: In a 2016 survey, 97% of Health Motivators and 92% of group members said that their health improved because of the program.
SMiles Senior Transportation
Updated/reviewed July 2017
  • Need: Rural seniors who are no longer able to drive are often presented with the challenge of finding a means of transportation for medical visits, errands, and social gatherings.
  • Intervention: SMiles, a rural senior transportation program, was implemented in Blount County, Tennessee.
  • Results: Since 2013, SMiles has successfully provided over 18,000 rides to its rural seniors.
Right Side Up Falls Prevention
Updated/reviewed January 2017
  • Need: Falling is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in adults over the age of 65.
  • Intervention: The Right Side Up program was implemented in rural Otter Tail County to address the prevention and management of falls and risk for falls through in-home assessments given by interdisciplinary healthcare professionals and students.
  • Results: Short-term outcomes revealed 100% of participants found the visit and recommendations for falls prevention to be helpful, and 78% implemented these recommendations.
Senior CommUnity Care
Updated/reviewed January 2016
  • Need: Many older adults need some assistance in order to remain independent in their homes.
  • Intervention: A PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) provides healthcare services and support for older adults living in the western rural counties of Delta and Montrose in Colorado.
  • Results: Allows older people in western Colorado to maintain their independence in their own homes with a higher quality of life.

Last Updated: 11/8/2017