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Living in the Utah Frontier

I live in Southern Utah and I love it! I moved here in 1987 from Minnesota to attend school at Southern Utah University, back then it was called Southern Utah State College. I came from a larger city and it was an adaptation in lifestyle to move here. Recently, I received a call from someone 40 miles east of Kanab wanting to know what was available for them. They too had moved from out of state and wanted to know how they could age in place. We get this call often and many people come to the beauty of the mountains not researching resources or even planning what might be needed to age in place.

National Rural Health Association Policy Brief “Definitions of frontier for specific state and federal programs vary depending on the purpose of the project being funded. Some of the variables that may be considered in classifying an area as frontier include population density, distance from a population center or specific service, travel time to reach a population center or service, functional association with other places, service or market area, availability of paved roads, travel inhibiting weather, and seasonal changes in access to services. These conditions may cause significant problems in access to health services, create poor economic opportunities and other conditions causing health and social disparities. In order to meet the health and economic goals of the country, Frontier areas require specific recognition.”

PHOTO FROM RURAL HEALTH INFORMATION HUB Frontier counties (marked in green) are often defined as having a population density of fewer than six people per square mile.

Looking at this map, three of our Five Counties are considered Frontier. Here are some tips for moving to the “Frontier” and planning to age in place:

1. Do your research. In many areas travel is required for basic medical treatment. The nearest medical facility can at times be hours away. Clinics may come out to the rural community, but it may only be one or two times a month. If you have complicated health it is wise to look into “Nearest Internal Medicine Doctor” if you already know your health is failing, a frontier home may mean long trips and limited transportation to get the medical treatment you need.

2. Many programs are not offered from State-to-State. We will often get a call from a caregiver wanting to be paid for caring for a parent or spouse. Yes, there are programs out there, but there are requirements to qualify whether it is a Veteran program through the Veterans Administration or a waiver program for low-income seniors through Medicaid, which requires spending time on a state wide applicant waiting list after being assessed for the program.

3. Building a network of Support. Many of the frontier communities are made up of older residents, because the younger generations have moved away to look for work. Some of the communities have little to no access to services such as home health. Companies in our area have tried diligently to find adequate staff and are unable too. Due to the difficulty accessing these areas the funding available does not go as far to serve the community needs. So as you plan to go to the frontier home make sure you are not isolated. Check out the average age of the community. Do you have family or relatives near by that can assist you and are they willing too? Does it snow there or have excessive heat? What business are in the community? Can you afford to hire them to help with home maintenance and other needs that may come up?

Frontier is very different than just rural or country, it really means a lack of access to services and needs. I love Southern Utah I have been here over thirty years and have lived in 3 of the five counties. As I am getting older and preparing to age in place, I will be taking my own tips to ensure my husband and I can remain home wherever we end up. I hope these tips are helpful to you too!

Tracy HeavyRunner is our Home and Community Based Program Director.

She has been with AAA-Five County since 1996. Tracy graduated from Southern Utah University and is a Social Service Worker. Additionally, she is a certified caregiver coach through the Rosalyn Carter Institute and a Master Trainer for the Chronic Disease, Diabetes and Pain Self-Management Programs.

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