Aging in Rural Appalachia: Perspectives from Geriatric Social Service Professionals


  • Natalie D. Pope University of Kentucky
  • Diane N. Loeffler University of Kentucky
  • D. Lee Ferrell University of Kentucky



Rural aging, older adults, Appalachia, qualitative


This paper uses qualitative methodology to explore the experience of growing old in rural Appalachia. Given the growing population of older adults seeking and utilizing services, it is important to understand the challenges and specific needs related to aging. Within the context of rural Appalachia, these challenges and needs may be different than those in urban areas or areas outside of the region itself. From interviews with 14 geriatric service providers in rural southeast Ohio, the authors were able to identity three prevalent themes associated with aging in rural North Central Appalachia: scarcity of resources, valuing neighbors and family, and the prevalence of drug use. These findings suggest that preparation and ongoing training of rural geriatric social workers should include attention to topics such as substance abuse and strengthening social support networks that often exist in these regions.

Author Biographies

Natalie D. Pope, University of Kentucky

College of Social Work Assistant Professory

Diane N. Loeffler, University of Kentucky

College of Social Work Senior Lecturer

D. Lee Ferrell, University of Kentucky

College of Social Work PhD Student