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
Anticipated completion date:
August 2021

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 is 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.