Aging in Place in Rural America: What Does It Look Like and How Can It Be Supported?

Research center:
Research staff:
Project funded:
September 2020
Project completed:
January 2022

Rural areas are older, on average, than urban areas and are continuing to get older each year. Most people want to remain in their homes and communities as they age and the ability to "age in place" is critical to maintaining the vitality and population of communities, especially in rural areas that have experienced outmigration of younger adults. Those communities often face particular demographic changes and constraints related to workforce and caregiving resources.

Aging is associated with a greater risk of both illness and functional impairment. It is also associated with significant life changes, including retirement, loss of spouses/partners, children moving away, and dwindling social support networks. To support good quality of life for individuals aging in place, a robust community infrastructure is needed, including access to health care, appropriate and accessible housing, healthy food, social activities, transportation, and opportunities for engagement and recreation. Because many aging-related resources and services are organized at the state level (e.g., via Medicaid funding for long-term care, Area Agencies on Aging, and other state agencies), states play a particularly important role in supporting aging in place and in allocating resources to rural communities.

The purpose of this project was to examine existing federal, state, and community-level support systems related to aging in place and how they vary by rural-urban location and to identify federal, state, and local policy implications for improving health outcomes for rural older adults aging in place.

Publications

  • Barriers to Aging in Place in Rural Communities: Perspectives from State Offices of Rural Health
    Policy Brief
    University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 11/2021
    This policy brief presents findings from an online survey of State Offices of Rural Health describing barriers for older adults in successfully aging in place in rural communities, and recommendations for how to improve the ability to safely age in place in rural areas of their states.
  • Examples of Statewide Age-Friendly Initiatives
    Policy Brief
    University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 10/2021
    The purpose of these policy briefs is to identify the extent of statewide programs to support aging in place or age-friendly environments and, within those, to identify the extent to which such programs have an explicit rural focus. The "Examples" document provides an overview of the initiatives identified in the "Environmental Scan."
  • Preferences for Long-Term Care Arrangements Among Rural and Urban Older Adults
    Policy Brief
    University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 05/2021
    This study describes care preferences by rural and urban location and by demographic characteristics among rural residents.
  • Social Cohesion and Social Engagement among Older Adults Aging in Place: Rural/Urban Differences
    Policy Brief
    University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 01/2022
    This policy brief examines rural/urban differences in social cohesion and social engagement for older adults aging in place, as well as within-rural differences by race and ethnicity.
  • Statewide Age-Friendly Initiatives: An Environmental Scan
    Policy Brief
    University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 10/2021
    The purpose of these policy briefs is to identify the extent of statewide programs to support aging in place or age-friendly environments and, within those, to identify the extent to which such programs have an explicit rural focus. The "Examples" document provides an overview of the initiatives identified in the "Environmental Scan."