Tim B. Heaton Brigham Young University
One of the most significant demographic changes of the 20th century in the United States has been the resurgence of the population in small towns and rural areas. The 1970's were characterized by new patterns of population deconcentration to smaller places, to nonmetropolitan areas, and to the South. Compared with past trends, the shift toward nonmetropolitan residence is greater than either the shift to smaller places or regional shifts, with regional shifts being the smallest of the three ( Heaton and Fuguitt, 1980).
These shifts in population distribution have sparked increased interest in the spatial distribution of the elderly population. The growth in the number of elderly persons, coupled with changes in their residential locations, has apparently played an important part in these redistribution trends. Older people are responding as well as contributing to the turnaround in the longterm trend toward urbanization. In fact, the movement of elderly people to nonmetropolitan areas, beginning in the 1950's, preceded the general trend, which did not appear until after 1970.
Although this turnaround phenomenon is extremely complex (both the data and analysis are highly technical), the significance of changes in population redistribution for the elderly can scarcely be questioned. The well-being and qual____________________