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Rural Aging

The nation's population is aging, and with that change comes increased healthcare needs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, The State of Aging and Health in America 2013, the population 65 years and older is expected to double over the next 25 years, due to longer life spans and the large number of baby boomers reaching retirement age. The report identifies chronic disease as a burden on older adults that impacts both quality of life and healthcare costs.

On average, rural populations are older than populations in other parts of the country. Populations of older adults increase by level of rurality:

Older Adult Population
Source: Table S0101, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

This map, based on 2010 Census Data, shows the percent of the population over 65 by county:

Older Adults Map

Older adults who live in rural areas have the same concerns related to healthcare access as other rural residents. They may also face challenges related to:

  • Transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other essential and leisure activities
  • Housing quality and affordability, including how to pay for needed repairs and modifications
  • Availability of home-based services and community supports and long-term care in their communities

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources are available to find services for older adults?

The Eldercare Locator, 1.800.677.1116, provides access to state and local area agencies on aging, as well as community-based organizations and services addressing a range of concerns, including housing, transportation, elder abuse prevention, and more.

What types of food programs are available for rural seniors?

Rural older adults may benefit from a range of food assistance programs, including programs that provide group meals and food at home. For details, see RHIhub's Rural Hunger and Access to Healthy Food topic guide, What food assistance programs are available for seniors in rural communities?

How might one find transportation to get to medical appointments in rural communities?

Information on transportation options for the disabled and the elderly should be available at local human service offices, local transit authorities, community and faith-based organizations, and regional planning organizations. Contact your local county social service agency, your community action agency, and/or call 2-1-1, to find out what programs are in your area. For additional resources, see Where can I get help finding local transportation programs and services? on RHIhub's Transportation to Support Rural Health Care topic guide.

Why is financial abuse a concern, and what resources are available to address financial and other abuse of the rural elderly?

An elderly person might fall into a financial abuse situation, in which their funds, property, or resources are illegally or improperly used, for a variety of reasons:

  • Not realizing the value of their assets or other financial matters
  • Dependence on others for help
  • Embarrassment at being taken in by a scam
  • Unaware of ways to report scams and other financial abuse
  • Not understanding advances in technology related to managing their finances

For an overview of this issue and resources to address it, see What concerns are there for protecting the rural elderly and other vulnerable rural populations from financial abuse, violence, and neglect? on RHIhub's Violence and Abuse in Rural America topic guide.

Last Reviewed: 10/30/2018