November 2, 2023

Aging in Place in Rural Communities


Living in rural areas can bring an element of peace and a tight-knit community, which makes it an attractive location for retirement. Seniors who are planning to age in place in rural areas might be presented with a unique set of challenges, however, such as limited access to healthcare and potential isolation from family and friends. In this blog, we’ll go over the necessary considerations when planning to age in place in a rural community.

The Landscape of Rural Aging

As mentioned before, rural communities can be attractive to seniors who are looking to live a slower, quieter life in their golden years. There are both positives and challenges to rural living as a senior, especially when considering aging in place in these secluded areas. It’s important to take a look at these and plan for this stage of life.  

Challenges of Aging in Rural Areas

Some of the challenges that seniors might face in rural areas include:

  • Limited Access to Healthcare Facilities and Specialists: Rural communities don’t have the benefits that you’d find in a big city when it comes to healthcare facilities and specialists. Seniors aging in place in remote areas will most likely find themselves further away from these facilities, creating longer wait times for emergency care and long commutes in medical situations. 
  • Transportation Barriers and Lack of Public Transit Options: Compared to urban settings, public transportation is either limited or non-existent in rural areas. Seniors who can’t drive due to various reasons need to plan and arrange transportation to and from their homes and nearby facilities. 
  • Fewer Nearby Services and Amenities: In some very secluded areas, residents may find themselves at least an hour or two away from the nearest big grocery store or pharmacy. While there are typically small stores to find what food or medicine you might need, the options are often limited. Any potential complications as a result of this should be considered, especially for seniors with complicated medical situations that require multiple medications.
  • Potential Isolation due to Distance from Family and Friends: In some cases, there is a significant distance from family and friends. Sometimes seniors leave their family and friends behind and move to rural areas, or their children and friends move away from them and these areas. In either case, it’s important for seniors to do what they can to avoid social isolation in order to contribute to their mental health and well-being. 

Benefits of Aging in Rural Communities

There are also many benefits of aging in place in rural communities, including:

  • Close-Knit Communities and Strong Neighborly Bonds: It’s common for rural communities to be tight-knit and for neighbors to look out for each other as they would their families. There can be some peace of mind for children of seniors living in rural communities in knowing that their aging parents will have someone to keep them company and help take care of them if needed. 
  • Peaceful, Natural Environment Conducive to Mental Well-being: Living among nature can undoubtedly boost someone’s mental health and well-being. It can be beneficial for seniors to spend time outside and breathe in the fresh air. 
  • Lower Cost of Living Compared to Urban Areas: Oftentimes it is less expensive to live in rural areas than it is in urban settings. Lower living cost means that seniors can more easily afford to age in place on their retirement without the help of family members and their children, which can be a relief to all. 
  • Opportunities for Active Living: Rural areas often have walking trails and open land that present opportunities for gardening, hiking, and nature walks and promote an active lifestyle. This time spent outside, combined with physical activity, is beneficial to seniors’ physical and mental health and well-being. 

Home and Infrastructure Modifications for Rural Living

Rural living requires some extra thought and attention to home modifications, especially for seniors. Ensuring seniors have a safe and reliable home to age in comfortably is crucial to successfully aging in place in rural communities. 

One thing to consider is establishing both a secure phone and internet connection to make sure that there’s a way for seniors to communicate with the outside world in emergency situations. Another important consideration is to ensure there’s reliable water and electricity in the house. It’s also smart to have a backup plan in case of natural emergencies, such as stocking up on batteries and bottled water, or investing in a home generator if you’re able to.

For a list of more home modification considerations for seniors aging in place, be sure to check out our blog Aging in Place Home Modifications: Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment for Seniors.

Leveraging Local Resources and Community Support

Since it is common for rural communities to be tight-knit and support each other, seniors living in these communities should find ways to get involved wherever they can. There may be community activities that seniors can participate in, such as a community garden or bingo night. Socializing and inserting themselves into the community is beneficial for their mental health and helps to eliminate isolation concerns. Additionally, these tight-knit communities are known for helping each other out when needed, and seniors can ask neighbors for help with rides to the store or doctor, for instance. This feeling of community and sense of belonging are beneficial for seniors aging in place in rural communities. 

Health and Wellness in Rural Settings

Seniors living in rural areas will likely need to take advantage of modern solutions in medication and healthcare in order to stay healthy. For example, telehealth appointments with doctors can create easier access to medical professionals. Additionally, the isolation of rural communities might make it more difficult to access a pharmacy that can meet your needs. In this situation, it’s worth considering a home delivery pharmacy to ensure you have continuous access to your medications.

PersonalRX, for example, delivers your monthly supply of medication with personalized, individually packaged medication dose packs and a pre-made list of meds. The comprehensive list of medicines provided makes medicine regimes clear so doses don’t get mixed up or missed. This is especially helpful in maintaining medication adherence, which becomes a bigger concern for seniors who are living at home. PersonalRX also provides you with a dedicated Personal Care Provider who is available 24/7 to make sure your medications arrive safely, accurately, and promptly each month.

Transportation Solutions 

Seniors who don’t drive or need help with getting places can look into community ride-sharing or carpool programs. Considering the typical lack of public transportation, the community will usually come together and give rides when they can. Sometimes there are grants available for transportation solutions in rural areas, and seniors and their neighbors can look into these as well. 

Aging in Rural Communities Is Possible

Aging in place within rural communities is not only possible for seniors, but it is also an attractive option for retirement for many. When seniors utilize local resources, look into innovative healthcare solutions, and find their place within their community, they can find that rural communities are a great option for aging in place.

Additional Resources

Organizations Supporting Rural Aging

National Programs Supporting Rural Health

Recommended Reading on Rural Health and Community Development

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