The graying periphery - aging and community development in Romania and Bulgaria

Laszlo J. Kulcsar, Kansas State University
Cristina Bradatan, Texas Tech University

Aging is one of the most significant challenges for European countries. While the impact of aging on community well-being has been part of the development and policy discourse in Western Europe, it is a relatively new problem for the new EU member states in Eastern Europe. Aging here is accelerating rapidly due to the plummeting fertility rates and significant outmigration at the national level. At the same time, subnational differences in aging also increase, mainly facilitated by urban expansion and immigration which leaves rural communities without present day revenues and future prospects for population replacement. This study focuses on the patterns of the aging processes in Romania and Bulgaria discussing how local socioeconomic characteristics, development legacies and local cultures influence the policy challenges of aging. Analyzing both EU level and national statistics supported by in-depth data collection we use community case studies to reveal the links between demographic processes, community development and policy measures. Since aging is not a random pattern but connected to other forms of spatial inequalities, most of the Eastern European countryside faces dramatic problems of perpetuated decline at the same time when state and local capacity appears insufficient to handle the challenges. This study addresses the future of rural communities in Eastern Europe through their demographic trajectory and community capacity in the context of EU efforts for regional cohesion.

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Presented in Poster Session 1