Rural communities as a radical idea for dementia-friendly living

With the promotion in the past few years to create age-friendly communities and dementia-friendly communities, my brain has been thinking of how this could change our way of looking at community living and intergenerational socialization.

Today, over my cup of coffee and thinking about a documentary I had seen on aging in Japan, I had one of those spark moments. You know, when you get an idea that seems like it could really make a difference in the world.

I started thinking about how there are small and rural towns all around the world who are losing their younger generations to big cities. I myself have moved from a small, rural town to a big city in search of adventure and career prospects. So far, it has paid off. But, I still think about the small towns and their struggle to stay afloat. Since I left my hometown of Wakonda in 2000, two of the local communities have consolidated their schools in order to provide education to the children in the area. I can understand this, as there were 21 in my graduating class and it was one of the bigger classes to graduate WHS. In short, the school could not continue to afford staying open with dwindling numbers of students.

Well, what if we brought new life to these small communities who are losing their younger population to the big cities? What if we gave them makeovers and made them into age-friendly communities or dementia-friendly communities? What if we didn’t focus on bringing the younger people back in to the community, but focused on serving the population who was still there? And, even better, drawing in more of the same types of people to live there. Essentially making small towns into retirement communities or care communities.

While I can completely understand that people may want to live in their current community, and adult children may want their parents to live close by to them, there will still be other people who would want to move to a community of people in their same age group and with similar interests.

As good examples (proof of concept), here is an article on how two rural communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota became dementia-friendly:

Businesses, downtowns work to become ‘dementia-friendly’:  Minnesota, Wisconsin join a growing movement to be more accommodating and inclusive.

You can also read my post on how Watertown, Wisconsin became dementia-friendly.

And, lo and behold! My husband sent me a great news article along these lines the other day. It’s about how the Sicilian town of Gangi is giving away houses to people who will move in and improve the community! While the houses are definitely fixer-uppers, it kinda sounds like a great place to test out this idea, doesn’t it? I will be writing them to see if I can get some more details and maybe even put my name on a waiting list!

What do you think of this idea for dementia-friendly living? Of bringing new life into rural areas where populations are declining? Would you want to live in one? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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