Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: Why so many elderly in small towns?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Illinois as of 1/1/09
    Posts
    193

    Why so many elderly in small towns?

    After a zoning issue was put to rest due to the hardship it would cause on "those with fixed income" I began to wonder... how did it come to be that most of our small towns are populated with elderly people? It may seem obvious on the surface but let's dig a bit deeper.

    We hear some statements frequently; young people want to move to a large city, educated people want to move to a big city for jobs, but people come back to small towns to raise a family, etc. When people have children and move back to a small town we assume they are in their 20/30s. Where are these new residents working if their jobs are all located in larger cities? Is there an increase in educated-jobs in small towns? If that's the case, why don't' they move away once the kids are grown and they are retired?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Wherever
    Posts
    1,181
    Quote Originally posted by paiste13 View post
    We hear some statements frequently; young people want to move to a large city, educated people want to move to a big city for jobs, but people come back to small towns to raise a family, etc.
    These days this means either the suburbs or a long commute. Most small towns that are off the beaten path are slowly dying because there are no opportunities for younger people. When the only job opportunities are in government, retail, or what's left of the local industry, there's little reason for them to stay or come back.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Posts
    6,043
    Blog entries
    6
    The elderly remain in small towns because their friends and family are there or nearby. Their homes are places of security and memories. Their spouse may be buried nearby. The elderly are less prone to want to change the staus quo. Small towns are often cheaper to live in.

    I think mostly though, many of the elderly do not have the resources (income and mobility) to move elsewhere. We may like to think that the retired are living a carefree life of grandkids, cruises and well-deserved recreation. But the plain truth is for far too many of the elderly it is a life of loneliness, deprivation, poverty, poor health care and worry.


    Quote Originally posted by paiste13 View post
    After a zoning issue was put to rest due to the hardship it would cause on "those with fixed income" I began to wonder... how did it come to be that most of our small towns are populated with elderly people? It may seem obvious on the surface but let's dig a bit deeper.

    We hear some statements frequently; young people want to move to a large city, educated people want to move to a big city for jobs, but people come back to small towns to raise a family, etc. When people have children and move back to a small town we assume they are in their 20/30s. Where are these new residents working if their jobs are all located in larger cities? Is there an increase in educated-jobs in small towns? If that's the case, why don't' they move away once the kids are grown and they are retired?
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,978
    Quote Originally posted by paiste13 View post
    ...but people come back to small towns to raise a family, etc. When people have children and move back to a small town we assume they are in their 20/30s. Where are these new residents working if their jobs are all located in larger cities? Is there an increase in educated-jobs in small towns?...
    The claim that people "come home" at the point they start to raise a family is largely a myth that is supported by anecdote rather than data. It stems from some survey research asking questions like "Would you return if there were employment opportunities...", and the answer gets translated as "people want to move back". We have also done survey work on those who moved back, and find the majority are not thrilled with the experience. Most do not find the job opportunities they wanted, and returned to take care of an elderly parent. The sentiment might be expressed as "As soon as mom is planted in the ground I am out of here".
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,872
    I agree. There is little evidence to support the notion that young families are moving back to the small town they grew up in. Exurbs or suburbs are one thing and there are trends supporting the idea that many people who grew up in suburban settings seek to provide that same experience for their children. But a small town not dependent on a metro center is a different animal.

    I think obstacles to retention of the young in these places are both jobs and competing with the economies, excitement and cosmopolitan nature of more urban areas. I know for me, after I went to college, it was hard to see myself moving back to my town (which is a suburb of Philly but still its own town). It seemed boring and small-minded.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  6. #6
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    the delta
    Posts
    1,203
    I have done the opposite of most - I went from a city of 3 million to a college town of 500,000 to my current town of under 50,000. There are a lot of older people here but I think that has to do with the employers they worked for leaving in the recent past so they are all settled here. Young people move out because the employers left.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,698
    Also, some people return to their hometowns when they retire. I have some friends who just did that, and I'm thinking of doing that myself when I retire.

    I think that small towns/rural areas have always been sending significant numbers of their young people off to "the big city", but in the past, there were always some economic opportunities for those younger people who wanted to stay or those who wanted to return. Most of those opportunities have evaporated, however.

    I think small cities and large small towns (20,000-50,000 residents) are still economic viable. Some smaller towns may also be viable, depending upon economic opportunities. My home town (about 2000 people) has two large state prisons plus a small hospital and remnant of state jobs from the old state facility for the mentally retarded that provide a modest economic base for the area and stabilize the economy.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Aug 2012
    Location
    The Pleasure Center
    Posts
    47
    I wonder to what extent this trend has halted or is reversing, if only because of the recent recession. I was born and currently live in an area that hemorrhages young people to the coasts. I myself moved to a large, east coast metro. I moved back because I perceived that my little rust belt town in Upstate NY weathered this recession much better than other places, and that I had more opportunity here. It's not the most stimulating job on the planet, but it gives me a paycheck that goes much farther than in most larger cities, and it's certainly easier to find work here than say, New York City. While I'm here, the city has had time to sell me on its quality of life, which we have in abundance. There are even a couple of hipster neighborhoods some refer to as "starter Brooklyn," oddly enough.

    I'd probably move as soon as things settle down out there, or I had another good reason. But I know others have made similar moves to my own, and mobility among Americans is at a record low. Is America experimenting with a new pastoralism?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Wherever
    Posts
    1,181
    Quote Originally posted by anthrus View post
    I wonder to what extent this trend has halted or is reversing, if only because of the recent recession.
    I think it really depends on the location. A lot of rural towns I just don't see ever coming back since they're so far out of the way. Rustbelt towns may be hurting but they still have a lot going for them unlike many single industry rural towns. Being an hour plus away from any major transportation corridor is just not conducive to getting economic development unless you're lucky enough to have some tourist draw or natural resources.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,698
    Quote Originally posted by anthrus View post
    I wonder to what extent this trend has halted or is reversing, if only because of the recent recession. I was born and currently live in an area that hemorrhages young people to the coasts. I myself moved to a large, east coast metro. I moved back because I perceived that my little rust belt town in Upstate NY weathered this recession much better than other places, and that I had more opportunity here. It's not the most stimulating job on the planet, but it gives me a paycheck that goes much farther than in most larger cities, and it's certainly easier to find work here than say, New York City. While I'm here, the city has had time to sell me on its quality of life, which we have in abundance. There are even a couple of hipster neighborhoods some refer to as "starter Brooklyn," oddly enough.

    I'd probably move as soon as things settle down out there, or I had another good reason. But I know others have made similar moves to my own, and mobility among Americans is at a record low. Is America experimenting with a new pastoralism?
    I have seen this phenomenon as well. In fact, my employer, the local community college has benefited from several people just like you who have returned from the NYC metro because, yeah, we have some jobs in Chautauqua County. They're NOT glamorous, and they don't pay like jobs in the big metros, but life style and the cost of living (ie, housing) make it so you can live here pretty comfortably on a modest income.

    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    I think it really depends on the location. A lot of rural towns I just don't see ever coming back since they're so far out of the way. Rustbelt towns may be hurting but they still have a lot going for them unlike many single industry rural towns. Being an hour plus away from any major transportation corridor is just not conducive to getting economic development unless you're lucky enough to have some tourist draw or natural resources.
    This is very true. Upstate NY still has a decent population base to support economic activity. The distances between major population centers are smaller than elsewhere, too. Upstate has a string of small and medium sized cities stretched out along the I-90 and the I-86 corridors that provide some economic vitality. Also, the state population is large enough that it can support an entire system of 2 year and 4 year state colleges and public community colleges that are frequently located in small towns and cities and boost economies. That's in addition to private colleges/universities located in rural/small metros. Examples: Fredonia, Geneseo, Oneonta, Alfred, Brockport, Oswego, Potsdam, Ithaca, Binghamton.

    In many parts of the US, the economy is based on agriculture where the trend to larger and larger farm units means fewer and fewer people to support businesses in small towns. Additionally, low commodity prices over the last decade plus have taken a toll on rural populations, too. As farmers quit because of low prices, some rural areas are experiencing the kind of depopulation that hasn't been seen since the era of the Great Depression.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Shenyang, Liaoning, China
    Posts
    4
    In China we also face same condition that elders stay in small towns or villages and foster their grandchildren and the matures move out to those big citys to find jobs, you know, we China still not built adequate welfare for everyone yet, for instance, every chinese citizen has an unique registry not like id called"Hukou", it can decide your initial class as an urban citizen or a rural citizen. In china, most rural people can not get the same pension as urban people, and usually have not enough education oppotunities. So now, you see that the farmers who still plow are most elders, the young generation are not like assiduous as their parents, and we have been losing cultivation adepts, and the farmers have to resort to as much as fertilizers, all the taking severe ecology pollution.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,698
    Quote Originally posted by canglong2007 View post
    In China we also face same condition that elders stay in small towns or villages and foster their grandchildren and the matures move out to those big citys to find jobs, you know, we China still not built adequate welfare for everyone yet, for instance, every chinese citizen has an unique registry not like id called"Hukou", it can decide your initial class as an urban citizen or a rural citizen. In china, most rural people can not get the same pension as urban people, and usually have not enough education oppotunities. So now, you see that the farmers who still plow are most elders, the young generation are not like assiduous as their parents, and we have been losing cultivation adepts, and the farmers have to resort to as much as fertilizers, all the taking severe ecology pollution.
    Welcome to Cyburbia!

    Farming has always been backbreaking work for long hours with little reward and always at the mercy of weather, which is why people in all parts of the world have been escaping to towns and cities for several millennia, and still doing that when they can.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2007
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    771
    If you actually do the numbers, from now until 2050, it looks like something like another 25 million people will leave rural areas and move to the cities in the US, forming as many as 10 million new households in urban areas... as the urbanization rate is projected to increase from 81 to 89%. Assuming it is mostly the young who move, it doesn't seem like there will be much of anyone left but the old by the time the migration process is over and the next generation of those who are no younger ages out.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Midori's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2013
    Location
    the Bible belt
    Posts
    751
    So, related question: What kinds of things should cities with aging populations be thinking about in terms of preparing? I'm brainstorming here:

    Transportation: I've heard of smaller towns that have shuttle services (call to reserve, nominal fee per trip or free over a certain age). Does this work better than regular bus routes? My guess is yes--less scary, a lot of the folks who need it don't have the mobility to get to and from central bus stations, doesn't require the capital outlay of an entire bus network, just a few 15-passenger vans. Have any of you seen this done or done this? Is it prohibitively expensive?

    Public facilities: This is beyond the fiscal reach of most of my places, but for curiosity, what kinds of community buildings get the most use in an aging community? Fitness centers (we can dream, right?), linear paths, theaters? One of my towns serves a hot meal once a week in their town hall kitchen, like a centralized meals on wheels.

    Private buildings: How do you attract or plan for different levels of assisted living facilities? It seems like a lot of the older people in rural areas are especially resistant to moving into assisted living facilities, and would rather stay in their own homes with hired care, or move in with children. Is this your experience? Is there an exchange board of sorts for in-help care? And medical complexes: What kind of funding or incentives can bring in medical facilities?

    Anyone else want to take a turn?

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,584
    Blog entries
    3
    Quote Originally posted by Midori View post
    So, related question: What kinds of things should cities with aging populations be thinking about in terms of preparing? I'm brainstorming here:
    Siting of senior housing. In the community where I work, we're getting a ever-increasing number of inquiries for age/income-qualified housing complexes, assisted living facilities, and the like. However, all of them want to locate in a certain part of the community that is now largely undeveloped part of the community. Our concerns:

    * We're still operating under our old comp plan and zoning, which establishes a low density suburban development pattern, The proposed comp plan targets the area for TND. Considering the almost glacial pace of planning here -- partly because of an academia-oriented culture and the resulting pedantry, partly because of the high value placed on consensus decision-making -- it'll be years before the zoning that enables TND is in place. I fear inappropriate, physically isolated, suburban-oriented projects will land on our desks before we've had a chance to approve the plan, and the new zoning that implements it.

    * The area is now far from any services, shopping, or amenities, except for a hospital,

    * The area could become something of a "senior ghetto". Because land in that area is inexpensive, relatively speaking, we're also getting inquiries for income-qualified housing. We're getting almost no inquiries for market rate projects in the area.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plan_F's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2013
    Location
    McHenry County, Illinois
    Posts
    59
    Quote Originally posted by Midori View post
    So, related question: What kinds of things should cities with aging populations be thinking about in terms of preparing? I'm brainstorming here:

    ...Private buildings: How do you attract or plan for different levels of assisted living facilities? It seems like a lot of the older people in rural areas are especially resistant to moving into assisted living facilities, and would rather stay in their own homes with hired care, or move in with children. Is this your experience? Is there an exchange board of sorts for in-help care? And medical complexes: What kind of funding or incentives can bring in medical facilities?

    Anyone else want to take a turn?
    My last involvement in a major senior housing project review involved just one of those suburban-styled complexes to be located in a semi-rural "estate" context. This particular rendition was something relatively new in the senior housing industry. Yes, I would call it an industry these days. It was termed a "continuum of care facility." Essentially the concept was to provide for distinct levels of service according to lucidness-of-mind and ableness-of-body.

    What it had for instance was "villas," and duplexes / townhomes which were more-or-less single-family units in SFR or MFR buildings for one class of seniors (based on income as in able-to-afford whichever type of units). Then there were the two-larger buildings one for independent/assisted living apartments and the other was callled "flex" housing, which was to contain independent/assisted living and/or skilled nursing care/memory care rooms. The latter was what most would call a nursing home.

    While the use was approved, the project eventually died because of local opposition (in short, too dense) and the funding dried up before they got very far.

    If the project had gone full forward, it would have been a self-contained enclave village. For those who could not drive, shuttles would take them to commercial areas and medical centers daily. And we do have dial-a-ride public transport as well in this area, plus taxis. Which reminds me ...living in one of these units would not come cheap. This was one of those cream-of-the-crop sort of places meant to attract high-income seniors. The developers seemd to tout this as a way to fit into the local area. The affordability I mentioned before I would say was above median-income. None of the housing would have been owner-occupied. Again, this is an industry these days.

    Here and there, I've also run across some "senior towers" also, such as in LA, Chicago, or Omaha. Usually they, to me, resemble one end of the income spectrum or the other like SROs or luxury condos.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Midori's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2013
    Location
    the Bible belt
    Posts
    751
    Quote Originally posted by Plan_F View post
    My last involvement in a major senior housing project review involved just one of those suburban-styled complexes to be located in a semi-rural "estate" context. This particular rendition was something relatively new in the senior housing industry. Yes, I would call it an industry these days. It was termed a "continuum of care facility." Essentially the concept was to provide for distinct levels of service according to lucidness-of-mind and ableness-of-body.

    What it had for instance was "villas," and duplexes / townhomes which were more-or-less single-family units in SFR or MFR buildings for one class of seniors (based on income as in able-to-afford whichever type of units). Then there were the two-larger buildings one for independent/assisted living apartments and the other was callled "flex" housing, which was to contain independent/assisted living and/or skilled nursing care/memory care rooms. The latter was what most would call a nursing home.

    While the use was approved, the project eventually died because of local opposition (in short, too dense) and the funding dried up before they got very far.

    If the project had gone full forward, it would have been a self-contained enclave village. For those who could not drive, shuttles would take them to commercial areas and medical centers daily. And we do have dial-a-ride public transport as well in this area, plus taxis. Which reminds me ...living in one of these units would not come cheap. This was one of those cream-of-the-crop sort of places meant to attract high-income seniors. The developers seemd to tout this as a way to fit into the local area. The affordability I mentioned before I would say was above median-income. None of the housing would have been owner-occupied. Again, this is an industry these days.

    Here and there, I've also run across some "senior towers" also, such as in LA, Chicago, or Omaha. Usually they, to me, resemble one end of the income spectrum or the other like SROs or luxury condos.
    We have a couple of those in our area. They are, as you say, quite expensive. But they do seem to be a nice alternative to the typical God's waiting room-style nursing home, and around here anyway, there are usually waiting lists to get in.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2007
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    771
    Quote Originally posted by paiste13 View post
    After a zoning issue was put to rest due to the hardship it would cause on "those with fixed income" I began to wonder... how did it come to be that most of our small towns are populated with elderly people?
    As I understand it, there has been a mini-boom in young people moving BACK to the farm in the last 5 years. Real unemployment and underemployment rates for young people - both recent high school and college grads - hit a high of something like 88% in 2009 according to the BLS and are still probably around 30-35%, including the chronically underemployed (people who have jobs but who are not able to get enough hours to work full-time weeks). Farming - with its low wages, longer hours - , all of a sudden became more attractive for many, especially when there's still a family property in the mix. This was further supported by an increase in food prices and hence an increase in farming asset values - making those family farms - previously farmed only by surviving elderly relatives, more valuable on capitalization of their agricultural yields alone (offset somewhat by the collapse in suburban land residuals to sub-zero levels, where they remain in many areas). I haven't seen any numbers about urban-to-rural migration, and I doubt very much they're sufficient to reverse the decline of the family farm and the consequent decline in the associated skills, but this mini-trend is an illustration of how these things fluctuate with the job market and economic realities.

    If one wants more young people in farming, barring another economic depression like the one we are coming out of, one needs to figure out how to make farming more profitable and rewarding, relative to other types of employment - say, service jobs in the cities and suburbs - and that means finding a way for small-scale farming to compete more effectively with agri-industry. New technologies and changing palettes may make this possible, but agri-industry still dominates, and productivity is still increasing, which means that agri-industrial needs fewer bodies to produce the same amount of food product. A desire for healthy, organic foods and non-GMO foods may drive growth somewhat, but, still ConAgra and Monsanto are a difficult combination for normal people to compete with, no matter how much more marginally attractive farming may be. Find some way to break the back of these corporate giants, and this picture will change quickly and many young people may very well head back to farming.

    The other question is how to lure young people who do not already have family farms to inherit or participate in back into farming, since buying land is something that is simply not an option for many young people, including many who may actually have had exposure to the right skills growing up. With young people straddled with debt coming out of college, already, asking them to borrow money to buy farm land is probably not likely. Prime Iowa farmland (outside of urban influence areas) hit a high of $12,600 per acre this year, up 17% over the previous year (thanks to increased food prices and therefore yield capitalizations). If one considers 10 acres to be an absolute bare minimum for a profitable standalone farm (and that would pretty much constrain you to diary farming), young people would need to be able to raise $126,000 just to enter the industry, which is just not an option for just about anyone.

    See this good article on the economic and financial challenges preventing young people from farming:
    http://www.dailyiowan.com/2013/03/25...ons/32421.html

    And these articles on the trend toward young people in farming despite these challenges:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/us...mers.html?_r=0
    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money...ing/52163914/1

    Interestingly, there are signs that things are (slowly) changing. From 2000 to 2010, the number of farms in the US increased significantly for the first time in generations.. from 2,167,000 to 2,201,000 and the average acreage of a farm declined from 436 to 418. Full data from the USDA seems to be delayed, but anecdotal evidence suggests that there will be another big jump from 2010 to 2012.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 08 May 2013 at 2:20 PM.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Remote command post at local bar
    Posts
    4,642
    I think senior facilities should be scattered around a little more. It's nice to be close to the hospital, but like Dan said you can create senior ghettos. They should also be located close to a grocery store at least and other retail and entertainment at best. Just because they're old and need some help doesn't mean they can't go out shopping. Which goes to the transportation requirement Midori is talking about. It just needs to be a small local bus that can drop them off at the grocery store, walmart, theters, malls, etc. Sometimes the facility will provide that, but not always. There are a bunch in my town that don't, all located in a lower cost area, that just lost it's grocery store. There are a lot of angry old folks in the city and there is no way to lure a grocery store back. Speaking of transporation, don't forget the oversized road signs for out older drivers. Sun City West in Arizona is a great example of that (I won't go into the problem of older people that just shouldn't drive).

    One thought as we plan out facilities. Do not put the public senior center near city hall. They tend to migrate over and start telling everyone how things need to be run. Not that I've experienced it.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,001
    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    One thought as we plan out facilities. Do not put the public senior center near city hall. They tend to migrate over and start telling everyone how things need to be run. Not that I've experienced it.
    Ooooh sounds a little bit like NIMBYism! Haha

  21. #21
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    Posts
    6,247
    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    One thought as we plan out facilities. Do not put the public senior center near city hall. They tend to migrate over and start telling everyone how things need to be run. Not that I've experienced it.
    Biggest laugh I've had for a while, Thank You!

    Incidentally we have the same sort of issue here. Not many people in the 30-45 age group due to the economy around here just getting beat to hell and hung out to dry for the last seven or eight years. You can see this when walking around downtown on lunch. Tons of jobs for the old and those just out of school. I don't think Detroit ranks as a small town. Yes it is shrinking but the metro is still about 5 million (more if you count the Canadians!).
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 4
    Last post: 04 Dec 2012, 3:13 PM
  2. Best small towns?
    Rural and Small Town Planning
    Replies: 32
    Last post: 17 Jul 2012, 11:52 AM
  3. TOD in towns and small cities
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 11 Mar 2009, 2:36 PM
  4. Planning for very small towns
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 22
    Last post: 14 May 2008, 12:14 PM
  5. Top small towns in America
    Economic and Community Development
    Replies: 6
    Last post: 06 Mar 2003, 2:20 PM