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Author: Norah Keating

This chapter explores the main sets of findings on rural places and beliefs, the processes of ageing and on the ‘best fit’ between these places, processes and the contexts in which rural people grow older. Whether rural communities are good places to grow old depends on a number of factors: on the people’s place in the lifecourse, the community settings in which they live, and on the ways in which they construct their relationships to people and places. It shows that the challenges of ageing are highlighted in rural places, due to the powerful impact on identities of rural people by natural environments, climate and distance.

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A good place to grow old?
Editor: Norah C Keating

This important book addresses a growing international interest in ‘age-friendly’ communities. It examines the conflicting stereotypes of rural communities as either idyllic and supportive or isolated and bereft of services. Providing detailed information on the characteristics of rural communities, contributors ask the question, ‘good places for whom’?

The book extends our understanding of the intersections of rural people and places across the adult lifecourse. Taking a critical human ecology perspective, authors trace lifecourse changes in community and voluntary engagement and in the availability of social support. They illustrate diversity among older adults in social inclusion and in the types of services that are essential to their well being. For the first time, detailed information is provided on characteristics of rural communities that make them supportive to different groups of older adults. Comparisons between the UK and North America highlight similarities in how landscapes create rural identities, and fundamental differences in how climate, distance and rural culture shape the everyday lives of older adults.

"Rural ageing" is a valuable resource for students, academics and practitioners interested in communities, rural settings and ageing and the lifecourse. Rich in national profiles and grounded in the narratives of older adults, it provides theoretical, empirical and practical examples of growing old in rural communities never before presented.

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A Global Challenge

Evidence of widening inequalities in later life raises concerns about the ways in which older adults might experience forms of social exclusion. Such concerns are evident in all societies as they seek to come to terms with the unprecedented ageing of their populations. Taking a broad international perspective, this highly topical book casts light on patterns and processes that either place groups of older adults at risk of exclusion or are conducive to their inclusion.

Leading international experts challenge traditional understandings of exclusion in relation to ageing in From Exclusion to Inclusion in Old Age. They also present new evidence of the interplay between social institutions, policy processes, personal resources and the contexts within which ageing individuals live to show how this shapes inclusion or exclusion in later life. Dealing with topics such as globalisation, age discrimination and human rights, intergenerational relationships, poverty, and migration, the book is essential reading for anyone interested in ageing issues.

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The power of social connections is a contemporary focus of research across world regions. Yet, evidence of challenges to carers’ social relationships remains fragmented and underexplored. We conducted a scoping review of 66 articles to create a state-of-knowledge review of the social consequences of caring. Findings indicate evidence of consequences for relationships with care receivers, with other family members and with broader social networks. Knowledge gaps include changes in relationships across time and in understanding diversity in the types and extent of consequences. Evidence challenges assumptions related to caregiving families and to the sustainability of family care.

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In this introductory chapter, Thomas Scharf and Norah Keating identify the scope of the book and provide a synopsis of the chapters. They also introduce key arguments relating to the value of the linked concepts of social exclusion and inclusion as they pertain to ageing and older people. The authors review contrasting interpretations of exclusion and inclusion in order to understand better the circumstances under which groups of older adults may be at risk of exclusion from societal resources. The chapter aims to provide a conceptual orientation point for subsequent chapters. While contributing authors use their own interpretations of the concepts of social inclusion and exclusion, they are consistent in regarding the concepts in terms of their multi-dimensionality, relativity and dynamism. Authors are also consistent in recognising the potential of a deepened understanding of inclusion and exclusion to inform both longstanding and emerging debates on the key challenges associated with population ageing in different national and regional contexts.

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The built environment, encompassing people’s homes and the immediate neighbourhoods and communities that surround the home, represents an important context for older people’s inclusion or exclusion. In this chapter, Atiya Mahmood and Norah Keating reflect on the centrality of place in the lives of older people. They conceptualise the built environment within the context of exclusion debates, focusing in particular on the ways in which the idea of ‘ageing in place’ is challenged by exclusion discourse. Several major policy and practice interventions that aim to enhance the built environment and thereby potentially reduce the risks of exclusion facing older people are reviewed. While universal design, visitability, and age-friendly city initiatives are judged to be valuable in addressing different dimensions of the physical environment, the chapter suggests that there is a role for research to review in more critical fashion the process and outcomes of such programmes.

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In a concluding chapter, Norah Keating and Thomas Scharf synthesise the key arguments raised by contributing authors to the book. They also identify a number of cross-cutting issues that merit closer reflection by researchers. In a forward-looking piece, the authors highlight a number of challenges that lie ahead in relation to the risks of exclusion faced by ageing adults around the world. Responding to such challenges, with the goal of promoting greater inclusion in later life, should represent a goal for policy makers, practitioners and the research community.

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This chapter describes the human ecology lens that challenges the different assumptions on growing older in rural areas. This lens is considered as an important element of this book, and is used to regard the various interactions of older adults with the rural contexts that shape their experiences. The discussion tries to establish the structure and the overall approach in the book. It also addresses the question: ‘Are rural communities good places to grow old?’.

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This chapter aims to answer the question of how the support networks of older rural adults evolve, change and adapt over time. It identifies the changes in social support of older adults for a period of 20 years, starting from their mid-sixties until their mid-eighties. It shows that an understanding of the support networks of older rural adults over time allows one to trace the evolution of networks in context. It helps in distinguishing who among the older adults in rural communities are embedded in support networks, which will evolve to provide care if needed. It also helps in deconstructing the idea of the universal supportiveness of rural communities.

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The term ‘care crisis’ is invoked to denote chronic system failures and bad outcomes for the people involved. We present a comprehensive wellbeing framework and illustrate its practicality with evidence of negative outcomes for those who provide care. We find evidence of substantial material and relational wellbeing failures for family carers and for care workers, while there has been little interest in carers’ views of their ability to live the life that they most value. Understanding and improving wellbeing outcomes for carers is an essential component of sustainable care, which requires the wellbeing of the different actors in care arrangements.

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