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Rural retirement poses challenges

September 6, 2012

Relocating after retirement is a popular choice among many older adults, but those who choose to move to rural areas may be doing themselves a disservice. Seniors who move away from the city for retirement are finding it increasingly difficult to locate a doctor, The Associated Press reports.

There are a number of reasons for the dearth of physicians in rural areas, but the most substantial cause is likely tied to the fact that most doctors head to urban locations simply because there are more patients there. Furthermore, because Medicare pays rural doctors less, there is more financial incentive to practice closer to the city.

The statistics are rather telling. According to the AP, about 22.5 percent of primary care physicians practice in areas that can be considered rural. About 24 percent of the Medicare-eligible population lives in similar locations. However, some rural clinics are noticing fewer doctors applying for jobs there.

"We used to get a steady stream of high-quality [resumes] from U.S.-trained and U.S.-born physicians," Dr. Bruce Stowell, who works at an Oregon clinic, told the AP. "Over the last year, that stream has declined into a trickle. Very few [doctors] are choosing to go into primary care."

That seemingly leaves few options available to older adults who want to retire to somewhere more relaxed or removed from the stressful city life, but retirement communities have become a popular alternative. However, it's important for prospective residents to ask about what kind of medical services a community offers, Forbes reports.

The good news is that many communities have recognized the importance of healthy aging and offer on-site senior health centers with full-time, board certified doctors.