Vital Aging in Fosston, Minnesota
Bonnie Stewart worries about the future of her rural community of Fosston, Minnesota, with its population of 1,575. Bonnie notes, “In small rural communities, vital aging and resources are often limited or nonexistent. Services can be 45 miles away, creating challenges for people who want to age vitally in their own communities.”
Rural communities are dealing with declining populations and a rapidly increasing aging population. Bonnie’s Evolve project is titled The Art of Aging: Creating the Masterpiece. She is creating a high-level task force in Fosston to assess the community’s ability to help people live healthy, fulfilling lives as they age.
The task force includes the mayor and leaders from health care, business, and other organizations in the community. They will use the Vital Aging Network’s Vital Communities Assessment tool to measure self-sufficiency, community support, and quality of life in the Fosston community.
By May 2009, Bonnie expects that over 100 people will have completed the assessment or attended a focus group. Based on the results of the assessments and the focus groups, the task force will make recommendations to the City Council. Bonnie’s goal is to have the city council adopt the vital aging recommendations for inclusion in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. She would also like to have the City Council establish a permanent vital aging committee. “I want to be sure that what we put in place now still exists 30 years from now,” says Bonnie.
Ultimately, she wants the task force’s work to result in a replicable model that will help other small, rural communities assess, educate, and develop strategies to assure vital living for all their residents.