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Investing in our rural communities, which are home to one in five Americans, offers unique opportunities to change lives for the better.

Funders who enter the field with an open mind and willingness to work collaboratively and creatively with local leaders and institutions discover that even small projects can produce powerful outcomes.

With one in four older Americans living in small towns or rural areas, any approach to improve the quality of life in our rural communities must draw on the skills, knowledge, and experience of older adults while also addressing fundamental issues that arise as we age. Among the issue areas that are key to building rural age-friendly communities are health, special populations, transportation, technology, housing, aging in place, and social isolation.

GIA leads Creating a Sustainable Network for the Rural Aging Movement, a three-year program to improve the experience of rural aging by connecting and supporting key players, sharing knowledge, and expanding the resources available to rural older adults.

As part of its Rural Aging Initiative, GIA offers a helpful primer titled New Frontiers for Funding: An Introduction to Grantmaking in Rural Aging. There, you’ll find guidance specifically for grantmakers, including how to get started; where those already working in the field see the greatest potential and greatest need; where to locate the right partners and grantees; why focusing early on program sustainability is essential; how to define and measure success; examples of programs that are working; the importance of working creatively with government; and how working on rural aging issues can increase the impact of many different kinds of philanthropies.

In response to the opioid epidemic that has ravaged rural communities across our nation, GIA created an Opioid Crisis Resources page, featuring the original report for funders titled Heartache, Pain, and Hope: Rural Communities, Older People, and the Opioid Crisis. It focuses on the damage to rural communities, particularly the lives of older people, and describes proven programs, innovative partnerships, policy recommendations, and scientific and medical responses for governments, communities, nonprofits, and philanthropies. The Opioid Crisis Resources page also offers links to many other resources that dig deep on the impact to rural communities and the lives of older people.

The Empire Health Foundation in Spokane, WA, is working to transform mostly rural Eastern Washington into the state’s healthiest region. As part of this effort, the Foundation’s Rural Aging Responsive Grant program annually makes more than a dozen investments of up to $15,000 each to help older adults in rural communities live full, meaningful lives with independence and dignity. In 2017, this included grants, among others, to the Spokane Tribe to assist with a walking path at their senior center, to the Rural Resources Community Action for a program supporting older adults discharged from the hospital to go home with meals and a basic health and hygiene kit; and to the Washington Poison Center to create medication take-back boxes for older people in three Eastern Washington counties.

GIA’s Rural Aging Resources page offers links to issue-specific pages with curated resources as well as information on foundations and government agencies that are already supporting rural aging initiatives. For even more information, see GIA’s Rural Aging Issue Brief.

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