Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 4 » Rural Elderly - The Changing Rural Older Adult Population, Characteristics Of Rural Older Adults, Health And Home- And Community-based Service Use Among Rural Older Adults

Rural Elderly - The Changing Rural Older Adult Population

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With the exception of the Northeast, nonmetropolitan residents are older than their metropolitan counterparts. Although there are signs that this distinction is beginning to reverse (e.g., Beale), the Census Bureau estimates that the nonmetropolitan population over age sixty-five grew by over 7 percent and the population aged eighty-five and older increased by about 21 percent from 1990 to 1996 (Ricketts et al.) Change in the percentage of older persons who live in rural areas is influenced by both immigration and a phenomenon called aging in place, accompanied by the outmigration of younger people. Comparing census data from 1970 to 1990 (McLaughlin and Jensen), states associated with retirement immigration, including Florida and Arizona, and states with elderly populations that are small to begin with, such as Alaska, have the fastest growing elderly populations. In primarily southern and western states impacted by retirement migration out of northern states, however, growth in the number of elders is not uniform across rural areas. Elderly people who are generally more affluent tend to move to areas within states or from one state to another with features such as bodies of water and a strong tourism base (Johnson). The short- to medium-term impact of this movement on receiving rural communities is generally economically positive (Glasgow and Reeder, 1990; Serow, 1990). Elderly migrants purchase property, increasing the tax base, and they create service sector employment (Reeder and Glasgow). Over the long run, however, Longino and Smith speculate that the demand for social and medical supportive services will gradually increase as elderly migrants age in place and experience associated illness and disability.

States with large numbers of older adults who are aging in place (e.g., Kansas and Iowa) are also experiencing outmigration of younger people from rural areas in search of employment. When this happens, the proportion of the population that is older becomes relatively large and stable. The situation of rural older adults who are aging in place is better understood by considering their lifelong work and economic histories. Census data from 1990 show that rural workers hold lower paying and lower occupational status jobs. This explains why younger people are moving to areas with better jobs, leaving older family members behind to age in place. Compared to urban elders, rural elders have likely held jobs throughout their working lives in seasonal farming, forestry, fishing, or in lower paying occupations. This explains why older persons in rural regions characterized by aging in place are economically vulnerable. They have lower incomes and are more likely to be poor, and they are less educated then their urban counterparts (Coward, McLaughlin, Duncan, and Bull). Thus, increases in the proportion of rural older persons can have negative or positive economic precursors. In either case, however, the long-term effect will likely be increasing demand for services and assistance.

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