October 24, 2019

Aging baby boomers will shape senior housing and services in rural America.

Changes in long-term care and senior housing and services are some of the “new and important ways” that aging baby boomers could shape rural America in the coming years, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Most older people do not live in rural areas and most rural residents are not older. But an older, increasingly rural, population requires specialized medical and rehabilitation services, as well as innovative housing and public transportation options,” Amy Symens Smith and Edward Trevelyan of the bureau’s Population Division wrote in “The Older Population in Rural America: 2012–2016.”

According to American Community Survey data cited in the report, of the 46.2 million people aged 65 or more years living in the United States, 10.6 million are living in areas designated as rural by the Census Bureau, and “the demographic changes ahead for rural America have only begun.”

The size of the rural population contracts and expands, but the share of older adults within that population has continued to increase and is more concentrated than in urban areas, according to the report. Older rural adults are more likely to be found in the South and Midwest — in Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Vermont and West Virginia, more than half of the older population lives in rural areas, the authors said. By contrast, 10% or less of older adults live in rural areas in California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

“The rural older population was less racially and ethnically diverse, less likely to live in nursing homes, and less likely to have educational attainment beyond a high school degree than their urban counterparts,” Smith and Trevelyan wrote. “These factors may impact rural community decisions, such as the need for hospital and rehabilitation facilities, planning for educational and enrichment programs, as well as the development of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities options.”

See the whole report here.

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