Boom or Bust: Opportunities and Challenges of Aging in Rural Kansas


Ben Bolender

Population aging is gaining a great deal of attention as we move toward the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. However, few studies have examined the processes and consequences of these aging trends in rural Kansas-and by extension, the Great Plains-at the community level. To that end, this project examines the community level impacts of population aging in rural Kansas. Primary methods included statistical community profile comparisons, site visits, and key informant interviews with local area leaders. The research team examined three non-metropolitan Kansas counties, two that were aging in place and one that is the single officially defined retirement migration destination in Kansas. Results indicate that areas that are aging in place also face significant challenges sustaining their population and economic structure. The retirement destination, on the other hand, has managed to slow population loss and economic decline through a certain combination of economic structure, family relations, local culture, and appropriate services.

(Posted Online on March 18, 2010)