By Alesia Frerichs, Vice President of Member Engagement
America is experiencing an unprecedented demographic shift with the number of Americans age 65 and older expected to double over the next four decades. This demographic shift comes with a unique share of challenges for seniors in rural areas, where access to needed resources often are limited due to transportation issues, social isolation, lack of financial resources, or difficult-to-access caregiving options.
This critical issue was placed front and center this week at Tivity Health’s Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging in Nashville, Tennessee, where members of Lutheran Services in America’s national network joined nationally prominent health and human services representatives to discuss the importance of factoring social determinants of health into efforts promoting healthy, independent aging for our nation’s rural seniors.
Lutheran Services in America has long been committed to taking bold steps when it comes to making a difference in underserved, rural communities. On August 14, Tivity Health recognized our efforts to enhance the health and well-being of seniors living in rural America through our Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative, which has improved the lives of at least 1,550 vulnerable seniors in more than 70 communities across Minnesota and North Dakota, with communities in Montana recently added to our expanded efforts. These successful results would not be possible without the hard work from the dedicated members of our national network in three states: Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, and St. John’s United in Montana.
(Pictured right: Alesia Frerichs (C) with LSSMN's Jeri Schoonover (R) and Roxanne Jenkins (L))
At its event, Tivity Health singled out the Collaborative’s “Friends in the Kitchen” program developed by LSSMN, in which community volunteers in Minnesota find recipes and healthy ingredients that work for specific communities, bring people together to reduce isolation and build community, and teach people how to eat healthfully for under 4 dollars each day. At the event, Tivity Health also released an inspiring new storybook that explores the meaning of health, prosperity and well-being for seniors who live in America’s rural communities. “Aging Well in Rural America: A Collection of Stories from the Heartland” explores the pressing issues so many low-income, rural seniors face every day, and the innovative steps national organizations such as AARP, the National Council on Aging, and Lutheran Services in America are taking to help older Americans live better, longer and more independently. We’re honored to have our Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative featured in this national collection.
Game-changing approaches will continue to be needed to help improve quality of life for rural seniors. With the nation’s demographic shift only accelerating, initiatives like the Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative will help ensure seniors are able to keep up with the sizable challenges brought on by this seismic change.
 Mather, Mark, Paola Scommegna, and Lillian Kilduff. “Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States.” Population Reference Bureau. Last modified July 15, 2019. https://www.prb.org/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet/.