Aging in a Small Town: Are Rural Communities Prepared for Older Citizens to Age in Place?

Many senior living organizations assess residents’ satisfaction with their senior living community; however, many older adults who choose to age in place do not have the opportunity to evaluate the community in which they live. A novel study investigated how satisfaction with community relates to the characteristics of older adults who age in place.

In the study, a face-to-face survey was conducted with 149 older adults who intended to age in place and lived in a rural North Carolina county. Participants were, on average, 74 years of age, 45% lived alone, and 54% reported household income of less than $25,000. Approximately 68% owned a single-family home. In addition to demographic characteristics, participants rated their satisfaction with their housing and features of their town.

Older adults were generally satisfied with their housing, with an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 (5 being extremely satisfied), and this was generally consistent across age, education level, gender, race, income, and marital status. However, participants in better health and those living in a larger residence were more likely to report greater satisfaction with their home.

Overall, the town features with the highest satisfaction ratings were church/place of worship (3.9), followed by connection to family and friends (3.7), grocery store location (3.7), and safety/low crime (3.6). Entertainment (e.g., town events or movie theaters) had the lowest satisfaction rating by far (2.5), then job opportunities (2.8), and local government (3.1).

Additionally, satisfaction with some town features was related to certain demographic characteristics. Information like this may be helpful for understanding what features are important to residents of a specific area, and for improving their ability to age in place. For example, older adults who lived in a single-family home were more satisfied with shopping location but less satisfied with connection to friends, compared to those living in an apartment or townhome. Older adults who were in worse health were less satisfied with cost of living, place of worship, hospital location, and safety, suggesting that town planners focus on these features to better support older adults as they age and develop health conditions.

 

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Source:

Lee S-J, Parrott KR, Lee M, Robinson SR, and Owusu RN. Residential satisfaction of rural older adults aging in place. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine 2021;7.

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