Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

Maintaining a Rural Lifestyle and a Sense of Community

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>America was built with community in mind — but the idyllic rural yet community-oriented lifestyle enjoyed by early American settlers is quickly becoming obsolete in the modern digital age.

America’s rural population has been steadily declining since the 1950s, when 36 percent of U.S. citizens lived in a rural area. Those fleeing rural areas for an urban lifestyle are looking for more job and education opportunities, and, in some cases, hope to find a community of like-minded people.

With rising urban rents contributing to an affordable housing shortage in many areas, it’s an ideal time to bring a community mindset back to rural living. And no matter if you live in a small town or an off-grid cabin, it’s easy to establish a sense of community in a rural area or homestead.

Rural Living By the Numbers

As of 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that around 600 million Americans (roughly 19 percent of the population) call a rural area home.

But that’s only part of the story. Today, the lines between rural and urban are increasingly blurred. According to building professionals, “rising housing costs and stagnant wages are forcing people out in the suburbs, pushing them farther into rural zones.”

The definition of rural has begun to change in the wake of nationwide zoning changes and housing shortages. The USCB defines rural as what is not urban — after defining individual urban areas, rural is what is left.

As a result, a wide variety of living arrangements fall under the banner of rural, from housing subdivisions on the edge of large urban areas to sparsely populated small towns and off-grid communities.

Safety Factors of a Rural Lifestyle

Many people believe that a rural life is inherently safer, but data shows that it’s actually the presence of community that equates a safe area. And community can be found in primarily urban settings. In fact, a 2013 study found that cities are inherently safer than rural areas, at least where mortality is concerned.

What’s more, major vehicle crashes and fatalities are more common in rural settings, according to legal professionals. This could be due to the higher average speeds on rural roads, since about 30 percent of fatal crashes in 2012 were speed-related, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data indicates.

Another risk that comes into play in rural communities is lack of access to healthcare. Nurses in rural communities have reported that their patients face a number of hardships when seeking medical care, from poor transportation options to poverty and inability to pay for services.

Poor community health equates a population that doesn’t get out much. Substandard healthcare options and a thriving community typically can’t co-exist.

Bringing a Community Mindset to the Country

Despite the perceived hardships of living outside of a major metropolitan area, rural living doesn’t mean you have to give up the social benefits of being part of a community, such as the presence of a safety net or a nightlife scene.

If you find yourself moving out of the city into a rural home, you can spark up a community mindset with your actions. Consider hosting a bi-weekly potluck that brings people together. Reach out to your closest neighbors, especially if they’re elderly or you have reliable transportation. Fostering a community-minded spirit even in remote areas starts with you.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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