Monday, November 24, 2014

Neb. poll shows older, younger residents define quality of life in rural community differently

According to a recent study by the University of Nebraska and its Rural Futures Institute, quality of life isn't always related to town population. "The 19th annual Nebraska Rural Poll was sent to 6,813 households in 85 counties and had a response rate of 1,943," Rita Brhel writes for the Press & Dakotan of Yankton, S.D.

At first impression, the poll's results may not seem to compliment rural communities, but it's worth a second look. More than half the participants said "that for any community to have a high quality of life, it must possess: a sense of personal safety, a school system, job opportunities, medical services, affordable housing, well-maintained streets, effective community leadership and churches," Brhel reports. However, fewer of the participants said their community possesses these things, particularly in the area of jobs, affordable housing, well-maintained streets, effective community leadership, medical services, a sense of personal safety and the presence of a school.

"It's problematic," said Cheryl Burkhart-Kreisel, community vitality specialist for the university's Cooperative Extension Service in Lincoln. "If you think these things are essential and they're not there, it could be frustrating. Obviously other characteristics are also very important to them."

Older people are more likely to report their communities as having a high quality of life, and younger people were less likely to do so. According to population records, people ages 30 to 49—people who typically have school-aged children—are moving in to rural towns, "after years of struggling against an exodus of young people," Brhel reports. The disparity in perspectives about what adds to the quality of life in a town seems to be related to the participants' ages.

Communities can strive to improve quality of life for both older and younger residents. The study shows that younger and older residents look for different things in their communities. Younger residents seem to be looking for jobs, personal safety, schools, affordable housing, childcare services, lack of traffic congestion, colleges and recreational opportunities, while older residents want "medical services, churches, well-maintained streets, effective community leadership, cleanliness, friendly people, a sense of community among residents, a local newspaper, acceptance to newcomers, a senior citizen program, leadership opportunities, public transportation and close proximity to relatives," Brhel reports.

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