Rural south-central Kansas recently experienced a rapid expansion and decline of oil and gas exploration by large energy companies using high volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. This resulted in dramatic changes in the daily lives of residents of this area, many of whom are age 65 and older. To date, there has been little research examining similar effects on older adults. Our qualitative study used focus groups to explore age differences in perceptions of reward and risk associated with exploration activity in one community. We found that although all participants welcomed positive economic effects, older adults compared with other participants had a more nuanced view of benefits associated with the activity of large energy companies, personalized both risks and rewards more, and had a more temporal perception of energy activity. A social ecology model integrated with life span aging theories was useful in understanding differences among groups.

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