The Graying of Rural America: Community Engagement and Health Promotion Challenges

27 Feb 2018

Background. Although social participation has been linked to positive physical and mental health outcomes, elderly people in rural areas remain highly disengaged. Also, few studies have examined community residents? perceptions of the barriers and opportunities for the elderly to participate in community activities. Purpose. This article highlights the perceptions of rural community residents regarding their understanding of the following: (1) community leadership, (2) barriers and opportunities for the elderly to engage in leadership, and (3) potential community-based solutions for promoting more social participation. Method. Individual interviews were conducted with 16 community members. Content analysis was used to analyze the data. Researchers immersed and familiarized themselves with the data prior to developing codes. Coding was initially done manually and later using NVivo. Findings. Four major themes emerged: conceptions of community leadership, elderly resource inventory, barriers to elderly engagement, and potential solutions. Themes collectively illustrated that residents have a clear understanding of the role of community leadership, of available resources for the elderly, and of the barriers encountered when using these resources. Conclusion. Our findings highlight a need for health promotion strategies that are informed by community needs and foster healthy lifestyles for all community residents.