GAMBIER — The maturing of the baby-boomer generation is turning Knox County a shade of gray that matches much of rural America and is the subject of a Kenyon College community conversation called “Aging in the Country.”
Baby boomers, many in their 60s and now a quarter of the U.S. population, will increase the rural retirement-age population by hundreds of thousands in coming years, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The rate of growth for retirement-age people in communities outside metropolitan areas has tripled since the 1990s.
Reflecting that change as well as the tendency of younger rural residents to move to metro areas, Knox County’s median age jumped to 38.3 in 2010, up from 36.5 in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. Older Americans are seeking lower housing costs, a different pace of life, and recreational opportunities — often near small college towns.
Three Knox County residents will join host Howard Sacks, director of the Kenyon Rural Life Center and professor of sociology, in a discussion about the local effect of those changes Tuesday, April 17, at 11:10 a.m. in the Peirce Hall Lounge, 201 College-Park St. The public is encouraged to attend the free event.
“The population is aging and that phenomenon is having a disproportionate impact on rural communities,” Sacks said. “Almost one in five people here is a senior citizen, and there is every expectation that this sort of graying of Knox County will accelerate in the coming years. What are the distinct opportunities and challenges to growing old in a rural environment, and how is Knox County responding to this phenomenon?”
Joining Sacks will be:
•Paul Higgins, an accomplished chef with about 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Higgins has an interest in the importance of fresh and local foods in the diet of older Americans. He is a former food safety instructor at the Ohio State University Extension.
•Diane Ramey, chief of long term care for the Area Agency on Aging, District 5. She has more than 15 years of experience as a nursing home social worker and with the AAA as a case manager and community services director.
•Judy Wainscott, a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit, all-volunteer group A Hand at Home, which provides services to help people over age 60 stay in their homes. The group takes advantage of about 50 volunteers who provide companionship, programs, small-repair work, transportation and help with various household chores for Gambier and College Township residents.
“A considerable number of people choose to stay here after retirement, and they often need some support,” Wainscott said. “My neighborhood is very active in helping. We help one another. We wanted to make that feeling of community a little more proactive, to catch people who fall through the net and have to leave their home before they really need to.”
“Aging in the Country” is part of a series of public forums, called Visits, planned by the Rural Life Center. Each session of Visits focuses on an issue important to local culture and lifestyle and includes a panel discussion with local experts. To learn more about this program, call 740-427-5850 and visit www.kenyon.edu.
Published on April 11, 2012