This chapter reviews literature on the health status and health care needs of older adults who live in rural areas, as well as critical policy issues which form the background to the need for research on rural health and aging. Social gerontologists and health services researchers have become increasingly interested in studying the distinctive experiences of older persons living in less densely populated areas. More assessments of the impact of residential location have begun to use more refined residential groups to assess variation in health status across a wider range of urban-rural community types. Bivariate logistic analyses pointed to modest, often insignificant metropolitan versus nonmetropolitan differences in the ability to perform functional tasks. The characteristics and special problems associated with the health status and health care needs of the rural elderly population are topics of considerable health policy significance. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.