Senior citizens in Payson and Gila County are part of a nationwide research project being conducted at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Professors Nina Glasgow and David Brown are researching retirees who move to rural communities like Payson, and are also trying to understand the common elements in the rural communities that are attracting older "in-migrants."
In 2002 and again in 2005 a sample of older residents who had recently moved to Gila County were interviewed by phone.
"We talked to about 60 people in 2002, half had lived in the area for five years or less; the other half had lived there for five years or more," Brown said.
When interviews were conducted again in 2005, the professors again spoke to about 22 of the same "newer" residents.
The survey was part of a larger study of 14 rural retirement destinations located across the county.
The basic focus of the study is to better understand how older persons who move to rural communities re-establish their social relationships, and the effects those social relationships have on their health and well-being.
The study also examines how rural communities adapt to an influx of older "in-migrants."
Glasgow and Brown are following up their earlier telephone surveys by conducting field studies in four of the rural retirement destinations. Gila County is one of the study sites.
The researchers will focus their efforts in Payson, where Gila County's retirement migration is most heavily concentrated.
Brown and Glasgow will be in the area from Oct. 19 to Oct. 25.
The purposes of the visit are to hold face-to-face interviews with some of the older "in-migrants" who were previously interviewed over the phone in order to clarify some questions that are still not answered by earlier surveys, and to discuss the community-level impact of retirement migration with area leaders.
Brown said they will meet with six to eight of the research participants, who ranged in age from 60 to 85 during the initial telephone conversations.
He said leaders they hope to interview are Mayor Bob Edwards and some members of town council, Town Manager Fred Carpenter, Community Development Director Jerry Owen, Barbara Ganz, director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation, Jo Johnson, administrative assistant to Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin, Deputy Gila County Manager John Nelson, Tina Bruess, executive director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Marsha Cauley, manager of the Payson Senior Center, Joan Philips and Roy Chavez of the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Laveta Stem of the Gila Pinal Council on Aging.
Brown talked about some of the surprises he and Glasgow discovered in their research.
"When senior citizens move, it has always been believed they move to where there are more amenities," he said. "We discovered that of the 800 people we spoke to, a third of them moved to within a 30-minute drive of at least one adult child."
They also learned that older newcomers to a community are as involved in volunteer efforts as are those seniors who have resided in an area for a longer period of time.
He said, along these lines, they found it surprising that so many older, newer residents were involved in the municipal government in Payson.
"It was inspiring to see the interesting lives they have created for themselves (in their new homes)," Brown said.
The results of this research will be published by Springer Publishers in 2007.
The book will be titled, "Retirement Migration and the Road to Rural America."