It’s no secret that communities everywhere are beginning to see a change in age demographics. By 2034 there will be more people 65+ than below the age of 18. With this big shift coming faster than we might expect, rural populations will most likely be hit the hardest if things don’t change now.

Rural communities tend to have fewer resources than urban ones making it harder for aging populations to remain in their homes. Three rural Wisconsin communities (Iowa County, Langlade County and the city of Waupun) took on the challenge to improve the ability to age in place by participating in the Healthy Aging in Rural Towns (HeART) project. Each community received a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation to work on initiatives that included awareness of services and resources, infrastructure for transportation and general community involvement.

The communities created a coalition to begin working on strategies for making these initiatives possible, which led to the creation of community committees and boards that continue the work. For instance, the City of Waupun created a Recreation and Wellness Board to focus on all areas of community wellbeing. In Langlade County, a toolkit was developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing Center for Aging, Research and Education, which is available to community members.