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" ... I am still volunteering at the local school, I am activein my church, and I enjoy my weekly coffee hours at the town cafe- I am determined not to leave St. James. I was born here andI am going to die here!"

" ... We had lived on a farm forty-seven years. After myhusband's passing away I did not want to live alone on the farmand be responsible for lawn mowing, snow removal, home maintenance."

" ... I want to have control over my life style with beingable to live as privately as I might desire but yet having thesociability of close neighbors when desired. My housing needsmust be simplified so I feel my house is in order at this stageof life. I want to feel a part of a community because my spousehas died and my family lives miles away. My neighbors are my extendedfamily."

" ... I want to live in my own home and take care of myselfas long as I can."

" ... We should have made this move a long time ago. If wehad only known."

These concerns and aspirations are expressed by older adults wholive in rural cooperative housing. Older adults in rural communitieswant to stay in their home communities where their children wereraised, land was tilled, lifetime friends remain and sense of"home" exists. However, housing in rural America remainsa concern. Many older adults express a desire to live in theirown homes but services are not always available and many homesare not safe or functional for older adults in aging years. Statisticsshow that older adults, especially in rural communities, are likelyto live in older dwellings that require much maintenance and arenot easily adapted to meet the special needs of the aging population.Older rural adults are also more likely to live in poorer housingthan their urban counterparts (Bull, 1993). Housing for olderadults in rural communities remains a dilemma and influences thequality of life of these older adults. There are several housingalternatives for older adults and one possible option is ruralcooperative housing. This study provides a foundation and a frameworkfor communities examining rural cooperative housing options fortheir rural older populations.

Statement of the Problem

The problem of providing viable, functional housing options forolder rural adults continues to be an intractable and crucialquestion which invites much attention and requires serious considerationby the older adults making housing decisions and the communitiesinvolved in the planning and policy making. To compound the problem,the older adult population has tripled since 1900 and the mostrapid increase is predicted to occur between the years 2010 and2030 when the "baby boomers" reach 65. The Americanpopulation is getting older and the number of older adults isincreasing at a rapid pace. Therefore, the demand for more andbetter housing options has surfaced as amajor older adult issue. Alarmingly, there is little evidencethat adequate senior housing options have increased appropriately.Several gaps in the knowledge and research of this housing issueremain untouched.

Stevens-Long and Commons (1992) indicated that at the time ofthe writing of their book, Adult Life, no correlationalresearch existed on satisfaction of elderly living in conventional,condominium, cooperative, or mobile housing. Studies of housingprojects and developed communities suggest that life satisfactionand social behavior are positively correlated to one's environment.Research incorporating housing and a physical health variablehave shown contrasting results - positive effects and no evidenceof improvement (Dorfman, Heckert, Hill, & Kohout, 1988; Hong& Duff, 1994; O'Brien, Hassinger, Dershem, 1994). Satisfactionwith home is distinct from, but related to attachment to place- the way in which lives and environmental features are subjectivelyintertwined (Stevens-Long and Commons, 1992). Research is beginningto identify the variables that relate to home and quality of life.

Purpose and Objectives of the Study

The purpose of this study was to describe the quality of lifeof older adults living in a housing option referred to as ruralcooperative housing. The following objectives were identifiedto lend direction and strength to several interests currentlybeing explored:

1. Identify the reasons why older adults choose to move to cooperativehousing.

2. Describe the effects living in rural cooperative housing hason older adults.

3. Describe the personal characteristics of older adults livingin rural cooperative housing.

4. Determine the quality of life of the HOMESTEAD residents.

The purpose of this study was to subjectively and objectivelydescribe quality of life factors among older adults living inrural cooperative housing. If older adults, families of olderadults, community developers, sociologists, demographers, etc.had a better understanding of the quality of life of older adultsin rural cooperative housing, they might be able to better determinethe best type of housing to insure a better quality of life amongolder adults wanting to remain in their rural communities.

Definition of Terms

There are terms specific to this study that require an explanationas to how they are interpreted within this research work. Theseterms are listed and defined both constitutively and operationally.

Quality of Life. This independent variable depicts a feelingof enjoyment and contentment about stage in life that is linkedwith variables such as self-esteem, social network interaction,health, and control of life. Quality of life is linkedwith life satisfaction which implies an act of judgement, a comparisonof what people have to what they expect in terms of their wholelife or some specific part of it. The more their achievementsexceed their aspirations, the greater the quality of life. Qualityof life has a past orientation, an evaluation of how things havegone up to the present (Neugarten, Havighurst, Tobin, 1961). Qualityof life was operationally defined by nine statements in the 32-itemquestionnaire. A three-point Likert scaling technique quantifieda respondent's affirmation of positive/negative effect statementsabout attitudes toward quality of life. Respondents located his/herposition on a continuum ranging from "negative effect"to "no effect" to "positive effect". Responsesfor all quality of life items were summated and a mean qualityof life score was calculated. Multiple choice questions exploredindividual characteristics associated with quality of life amongolder adults living in the rural HOMESTEAD housing communitiesin Minnesota and Iowa. Focus group interviews were conducted intwo HOMESTEAD communities in Minnesota adding to the qualitativeresearch concept of quality of life.

Rural. The United States Bureau of the Census defines ruralas open country and communities with populations of 2,500 residentsor less. One of every four persons age 65 and older reside inrural areas of farms or small towns of 2,500 or less (U.S. Departmentof Commerce, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Urban Development,1991). Respondents indicated their previous home location by checkingone of six categories: rural, farming area; small town; town;small city; city; and large city. Each response category was accompaniedwith population size.

Nonmetropolitan. The United States Bureau of the Censusdescribes nonmetropolitan areas based on population density ofa county that has a city with a population of 50,000 or less (U.S.Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Departmentof Urban Development, 1991).

Metropolitan or Urban. The United States Bureau of theCensus categorizes metropolitan or urban as counties that haveeither a city with a population of at least 50,000 and a totalmetropolitan statistical area population of at least 100,000 (U.S.Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Departmentof Urban Development, 1991).

Older adult. A term referring to people 65 years and older(AARP & AoA, 1994).

Cooperative. A cooperative is a business controlled bythe people who use it. It is a democratic organization whose earningsand assets belong to its members. By patronizing and becomingan active member of a co-op, individuals invest in themselveswith the power to shape that business (U. S. Department of Agricultureand Agricultural Cooperative Service, 1988).

HOMESTEAD Housing Cooperative. HOMESTEAD Cooperatives aredesigned to provide fully accessible homes for independent living,with basic support services, for their member owners. The ownersare cooperative shareholders and owners of the buildings, groundsand govern its operations. They receive the same economic benefitsas single-family home ownership: equity preservation/appreciation,deductibility of interest and/or real estate taxes, and controlof operations (HOMESTEAD Housing Center, 1994). A cooperativevalue was operationally defined by 12 statements in the 32-itemquestionnaire. A three-point Likert scaling technique quantifieda respondent's affirmation of statements influencing respondentsdecision to move to a HOMESTEAD Cooperative. Respondents locatedtheir position on a continuum ranging from influenced me; somewhatinfluenced me; did not influence me. Responses for all 12 cooperativestatements were summated and a mean cooperative score calculated.Focus group interviews also addressed the cooperative issue contributingto the qualitative focus of the research design.

Significance of the Problem

The argument in support of this research - what is the qualityof life of older adults living in rural cooperative housing -offers many implications in older adult research. Identifyingthe variables that correlate to quality of life helps gerontologistspredict the future social and life temperament of the older adultpopulation. Will cooperative living facilitate satisfying retirementyears for older adults? When the rural dimension is introduced,will the issue of where to house rural older adults come intoplay? These questions will be concerns older adults, gerontologists,community developers, and policy makers will need to explore inintegrating rural older adults to local communities, increasingthe quality of life, maintaining social structures, encouragingindependence, and preserving "rurality".

In 1900, just over three million Americans were 65 years of ageor older. The seven decades that have since passed bear witnessto rather remarkable changes in population dynamics. Today, approximatelyone in eight Americans is 65 years of age or older and comprised12.7% of the United States population. This means that 33 millionAmericans are 65 or older. United States Census Bureau (l989a)predicts that this one in eight will grow to one in six by theyear 2020 and one in five in 2050. By the year 2020, the olderadult population will total 53.3 million, an increase of 63% overthe 1994 population of 33 million. Among other things, rapid advancesin medical technology have made dramatic differences in life expectancy.An individual born in 1990 can anticipate a life span 24 yearslonger than his or her counterpart born at the turn of the century.

This study focused on the older adult living in rural communitieswhich necessitates a definition of rural and a description ofthe rural American population. "Rural" and "nonmetropolitan"are used in many studies interchangeably, although the two termshave different statistical interpretations. Nonmetropolitan areasare based on population density of a county that has a city witha population of 50,000 or less. The census defines rural as opencountry and communities of under 2,500 persons. Of the 33 millionpeople age 65 and older in 1994, nine million or 27% lived innonmetropolitan areas. This nonmetropolitan older adult populationwas 16% of the total population living in nonmetropolitan counties.According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (1989a), the olderadult population in nonmetropolitan areas grew by 11% (seven millionto eight million) in the 1980's, whereas the total populationin nonmetropolitan areas declined by two percent (57 million to56 million). Some demographers have described that as size ofplace and proximity to urban areas increase, the percentage concentrationof older adults decreases (Clifford, Heaton, Voss, & Fuguitt,1985). Many studies show older adults tend to be concentratedin center-city parts of urban areas and in rural areas (Lawton,1980; Tierney, 1987; Golant, 1992). Glasgow (1988) reported thepercentage of elderly in rural areas generally is higher in villageswith fewer than 2,500 residents and lowest in large towns andopen countryside. One reason for this concentration of older adultsin rural villages is from farmers moving into town after they retire, reducing thefarm population while increasing village and small town populationswith older adults (Glasgow, 1988).

Change in the age structure of American society may be even moremarked in years to come. American Association of Retired Persons(AARP) and Association on Aging (AoA) demographics show the olderadult profile changing - the older adult population itself isgetting older (AARP and AoA, 1994). Since 1900 the number of olderadults between 65-75 (young-old) have increased 8 times when comparedto 1990 figures, increased 14 times between the ages of 75-85(middle-old), and 27 times for adults 85 and older (old-old).Statistics show a slight tendency for greater proportions of the (old-old) category to live in rural areas than urban. Ifthese demographic patterns of distribution continue, the ruralpicture will show an increased concentration of old-old (U.S.Senate Special Committee of Aging, 1985).

A limited number of research studies have addressed quality oflife issues of rural older adults and its relationship to ruralcooperative living. Recent studies have documented that communityattachment is related to a variety of adjustment measures andemotional well-being variables among older persons (Klein, 1993;Hong & Duff, 1994; O'Brien, Hassinger, & Dershem, 1994).A considerable number of studies on older adult satisfaction havefocused on the comparison between quality of life and communityattachment to city, suburban, or rural areas (Davensport &Davensport, 1984; Dorfman, Heckert, Hill, & Kohout, 1988;Goudy, 1990; Hong & Duff, 1994). Many urban older adult characteristicsdiffer from their rural counterparts. A higher percent of ruralolder adults are married than urban adults, and rural areas experiencea lower economic base and a less dense population (U.S. Departmentof Commerce, Bureau of the Census & U.S. Department of Housingand Urban Development, 1991). Researchers (Davensport & Davensport,1984) frequently identified central cities and rural areas asplaces with a higher incidence of elderly home-satisfaction problems.Cities, for example, are often depicted as having older deterioratinghousing, unsafe streets, poverty, homelessness, and a sociallyisolated and lonely older adult population. In comparison, therural older adult counterparts have lower incomes, older housing,poorer health, limited access to health services, restricted accessto transportation, and isolation from children and other familymembers (Davensport & Davensport, 1984; Willitis, Bealer &Timbers, 1990; Klein, 1993). Thus, one may wonder why the ruralseniors express a greater sense of satisfaction about life thanthat of their urban comparisons. Many researchers postulate thatsocial ties are stronger among the older rural than urban populations(Dorfman, Heckert, Hill, & Kohout, 1988; Goudy, 1990; Hong& Duff, 1994).

Rural and urban preferences can be explained by sociological theories.The theories on rural and urban differences propose speculationsand relationships of the rural-urban continuum and satisfaction-discontentcontinuum. As early as 1957, Toennies divided society into twobasic kinds of social relationships - gemeinschaft and gesellschaft(Davensport & Davensport, 1984). Families, neighborhoods,friendship groups and the way people relate in a sense of a commonbond is termed gemeinschaft. The latter term is described as servingones own best interest with little sentiment involved. Toennies(1957) believed that although both relationships usually existat the same time, gemeinschaft was more prevalent in the smallrural community and gesellschaft best depicted in the city. O'Brien,Hassinger, and Dershem (1994) among others have speculated thatquality of life variables have a strong positive correlation withcommunity attachment.

Two competing aging theories, disengagement theory and activitytheory, surfaced as foundations to aging successfully (Lemon,Bengston & Peterson, 1972; Schaie & Willis, 1986). Bothemphasized the importance of having roles to fill, specific activitiesand statuses in society that marked one as "worthwhile".The two theories, however, proposed different ways to insure thatolder adults felt fulfilled in their present roles. While bothshared few similarities, they both propounded the importance ofhousing-selection and quality of life in the older adult populationwhich will be discussed later in this study.

Research findings to date often find positive correlations betweenhousing for the elderly and general quality-of-life satisfaction,involvement in community and on-site activities, and the qualityof socio-behavioral relations (Goudy, 1990; Golant, 1992; Stevens-Longand Commons, 1992; Klein, 1993). These same studies suggest theextent to which older residents feel they can exert some controlover their housing environment may also be predictive of theirenhanced self-esteem and social involvement.

Limitations of Study

Limitations do present some concern in this study of the qualityof life among older adults living in rural cooperative housing.An exhausting search was made to locate research addressing ruralcooperative housing and the outcome was very limiting. Only sevenrural cooperative housing units for older adults exist in theUnited States and these are located in Minnesota and Iowa. Allof the units are members of one cooperative corporation calledHOMESTEAD Housing Center and have been in operation for only three years. Some similarities can be made to "congregatehousing" which will be discussed in Chapter two's reviewof literature.

Likewise, limited research exists addressing the quality of lifeissues among "rural" older adults; however, assumptionscan be made examining the studies of nonmetropolitan and urbanolder adults. There is no doubt that rural, nonmetropolitan, andurban cultures have grown in similarity during the last few decades.Increased education, communication, technology, and transportationhave opened the door to residents of small towns and rural areas.Due to the growing similarities, the studies and theories discussedin the review of literature provides the foundation in older adultdevelopment in all regions of the country with strong inferencemade to rural older adult studies.

This research document is organized into five chapters supportedby the appendix and list of references. The introduction to theresearch problem has been summarized in this chapter. ChapterTwo reviews the literature and documents much of the researchdone on age-segregated housing options, quality of life factorsamong older adults, theoretical perspectives on aging and rural/urbandifferences. Chapter Three addresses the quantitative and qualitativemethodology approach to the research problem. Chapter Four highlightsthe research findings followed by the summary and recommendationsin Chapter Five.

(C) Copyright by Jill Eversole Nolan 1997
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