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Social geography dimensions of aging-in-place in Larimore, North Dakota.

Elderly population cohorts are increasing in the United States with quality of life implications at national, regional, and local levels (1). An important attribute of this phenomenon is aging-in-place, or the residential stability of growing old in a familiar location (2). The Great Plains states especially are experiencing this process, and North Dakota is not an exception to this phenomenon.

Aging-in-place studies are important for planning in a variety of economic sectors. Legislators, medical service providers, local governments, and businesses will be impacted greatly by a large elderly population and will need information to make the best decisions possible about a wide range of issues for the future regarding these senior citizens. One study suggests that states with a growing elderly population, due to aging-in-place, will experience a decreasing tax base and an older population more dependant on medical services (3). There are many studies focusing on the elderly population at the national and regional level (4, 5, 6). However, there is a lack of research focused solely on North Dakota, and specifically rural North Dakota.

Thus, the community of Larimore was selected as a case study to create a baseline from which to start to determine the extent to which that place in North Dakota is aging-in-place. To begin to understand how that process might be affecting the general quality-of-life in this community, the study was focused upon the following four research questions: 1. What are the social and demographic characteristics of the elderly population of Larimore?; 2. Why do the elderly residents of Larimore choose to reside there and does it have anything to do with attachment-to- place, homeownership, and/or close proximity to family members?; 3. Is Larimore aging-in-place, and if yes, why?; and 4. What are the implications for Larimore due to aging-in-place?

Case study data was gathered by conducting surveys and personal interviews with senior citizens plus exchanging e-mail correspondence with community leaders. After making personal contacts, most surveys were conducted at the Larimore Senior Center. The interview methodology, the snowball sampling method, was undertaken for efficiency in expanding the sample of participants. Data collection was designed to determine Larimore's specific elderly demographics, identify reasons for ongoing local residence, indicate if Larimore can be characterized as an aging-in-place location, and identify what are possible community implications.

Larimore certainly would be considered aging-in-place based on the responses from the surveys and interviews. One significant indicator was that all interview respondents stated that Larimore is to be their retirement location. Even those still working foresaw remaining in Larimore for their retirement. Many survey participants were well into their retirement years and already had lived in Larimore for a substantial amount of time, thus a strong indication that Larimore is aging-in-place. Further evidence of aging-in-place includes the majority of responses that convey attachment-to-place, including close proximity to family and friends, strong ties to the community, and homeownership.

The phenomenon of aging-in-place definitely will have an impact on the community of Larimore. The nursing and medical facilities must continue to expand and meet the needs of this senior citizen population. For example, one survey respondent expressed in a comment that there is a need for more smaller-sized, more manageable apartments. Responses from community leaders indicate that such construction is in the process of taking place. In addition, these facilities will continue to employ the needed staff, thus resulting in jobs for the community. While the community may be meeting the needs of the elderly in this aspect of the issue, there is still a need for a ride or taxi service within Larimore and to Grand Forks. Senior citizens and community leaders alike expressed a willingness to plan for improving Larimore in general. Interviewees provided suggestions regarding what these senior citizens desired to be developed in Larimore for improving their quality of life.

Consequently, this study contributes uniquely to the literature on elderly populations. Such a study in social geography helps reduce the lack of research on rural-oriented North Dakota communities. It is anticipated that this work will be useful to medical and social service providers, economic developers, and government leaders in Larimore and elsewhere in the Great Plains because of the increasing significance of aging-in-place to quality of life.

1) Conway KS, and Houtenville A (2003) Soc. Sci. Qrtly. 84, 309-327.

2) Graft TO and Wiseman RF (1978) Geog. Rev. 68, 379-393.

3) Rogers A and Woodward J (1988) Prof. Geog. 40, 450-459.

4) Longino CF Jr. (1990) Fam. Rel. 39, 38-43.

5) Plane D (1992) AAG Annals, 81, 64-85.

6) Graff TO and Wiseman RF (1990) Geog. Rev. 80, 239-251.

Tina Billups, Independent Scholar, 6632 E. Acampo Road, Acampo, CA 95220 and Devon Hansen and Douglas C. Munski, Department of Geography, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202
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Author:Billups, Tina; Hansen, Devon; Munski, Douglas C.
Publication:Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U4ND
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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