Angemessene Lebensverhältnisse als Herausforderung für die kommunale Praxis - eine kleinräumige Analyse zur wohnortbezogenen Lebensqualität im älter werdenden ländlichen Raum am Beispiel der Region "Der Selfkant"

  • Appropriate living conditions as a challenge for local authorities - a small-scale analysis of local quality of life in demographically ageing rural areas using the example of the region "Der Selfkant"

Opitz, Sandra; Pfaffenbach, Carmella (Thesis advisor); Fromhold-Eisebith, Martina (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2015


In the old days demographic transitions were initiated by industrialization, but even todayhighly developed countries like Germany face new societal challenges when it comes todemographic change and the ensuing development in population. Population ageing, declineand heterogenization have implications on many aspects of life and adaptationmeasures at different levels will be necessary. A central question which has been predominantfor some years now, both in the scientific and political discussion about demographicchange, is how local quality of life can be sustained under these changing demographicconditions, especially in regions where the economic viability of services of general interestis endangered. It is driven by the constitutionally legitimized spatial planning principleof equal living conditions which should according to the social state principle guaranteeany citizen living conditions that ensure adequate social participation and free personalitydevelopment now and in the future.The place of residence in itself should therefore never turn into an individual disadvantage- a danger more prominent in rural areas due to structural circumstances. Neverthelessrural areas cannot be seen as homogeneous as the rural diversity in Germany shows. Thus,demographic change affects rural regions differently. Nevertheless population projectionspredict a future of demographic decline in all regions - rural or not - which will becomeapparent sooner or later. Since shrinking communities are under a high pressure to act,the focus lies on these regions as the intensive discussion on peripheral rural regions ofEastern Germany shows. But also demographically stable or growing rural regions willhave to deal with the foreseeable developments. The same is also true for the region "DerSelfkant" in the district of Heinsberg (North Rhine-Westphalia) which is currently developinga strategy for dealing with demographic change. In view of a still growing populationthe region is primarily faced with changes caused by population ageing, but also bypotential out-migration which is due to its proximity to urban areas in North Rhine-Westphalia and the Netherlands. The apparent and in shrinking societies even increasingdependency on migration reveals the vulnerability of growing regions, too. Therefore, sustaininglocal quality of life is of vital importance to regions and local authorities.Because the legislator describes this aim with vague legal terms like equivalence or adequacy,nevertheless providing with it a certain radius of operation which is to a certainextent required by the regional variability of demographic change, every region will haveto find its own answers. Taking this up, the thesis focusing on the Selfkant region aimed toidentify approaches derived from the citizen’s point-of-view. Tight public budgets and thepostulate of sustainability will require further consideration of this perspective in the future because only with the knowledge of existing needs adequate local quality of life canbe developed. In this context a written standardized survey was carried out in the Selfkantregion and inhabitants of at least 35 years of age were asked about their local quality oflife, defined by the essential areas provision of infrastructure, mobility, residential environmentand social integration. The objective was to gain knowledge of present demandsand of demands at old age with regard to the living environment. On the one hand theanalysis itself was undertaken in terms of personal characteristics like age and mobility,both of which gain importance in terms of coping with every-day life. On the other handthe analysis was differentiated according to the residential location (municipality, district).The inclusion of the subcommunal level takes account of the increasing need for asmall-scale view on demographic changes, because these are noticed locally, they continueto be heterogeneous and influence the subjective well-being at the place of residence substantially.Despite a high degree of residential satisfaction typical for rural areas the interviewedinhabitants judge their living community on average to be only moderate. How much localquality of life depends on the factor of mobility becomes clear in two observations: Respondentsshow a higher dissatisfaction with certain aspects of their local quality of lifewhen they are in need of personal assistance. Furthermore, aspects of supply have beenidentified as important motives for moving. A comparative analysis with objective livingconditions has also shown that subjective views do actually reflect these objective conditions,resulting in a possible critical reflection of local developments. Whether living in arural area becomes disadvantageous is determined, in the end, by the accessibility of basicinfrastructure facilities, especially local grocery and medical care, or by available opportunitiesto compensate deficits in infrastructure. In the view of changing conditions the resultsof the study necessarily lead to the question whether rural areas should rather beunderstood as residential locations for certain stages of life and whether the role of individualdecisions for residential location and its possible impacts on the general publicshould be more intensively discussed in terms of the quality of life in rural areas.


  • Cultural Geography Teaching and Research Area [551820]
  • Chair of Economic Geography [551310]
  • Division of Earth Sciences and Geography [530000]