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Perceptions of Aging-Friendly Community Characteristics: Does County Rurality Make a Difference?

Introduction

“Aging-friendly” communities are environments where people can live their entire lives rather than having to relocate because of age-related changes. The objective of this study was to investigate the extent to which middle-aged, long-term residents in Wisconsin perceived their communities to be aging-friendly, and to determine whether these perceptions varied according to county rurality. Rurality was measured using the Index of Relative Rurality, and is based on four dimensions: population, population density, extent of urban area, and remoteness. The Index of Relative Rurality was combined with the USDA urban influence code to categorize counties into the following spheres: the “Metropolitan Sphere”, the “Rural-Metro Interface”, and the “Rural Sphere”. It was hypothesized that persons residing in metropolitan counties will be more likely to perceive that their communities have aging-friendly characteristics than those residing in rural counties, and this will be particularly true with regard to characteristics related to transportation and health care services. The hypothesis was supported. Respondents residing in metro and rural-metro counties perceived a higher prevalence of aging-friendly community characteristics than those in rural counties, particularly with regard to transportation, health care services, and community connectedness.

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