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The self-perceived health needs of the rural elderly who live alone.A randomised cross-sectional survey of Public Health Nurses (PHN) registers was carried out in two rural counties, Westmeath and Longford, Ireland. 200 elderly people living alone, consisting of 50 aged 65-74 years in each of the two counties and 50 aged > or = 75 years expressed their health needs in terms of physical, mental and social well-being. 50% lived in accommodation with inadequate bathroom facilities and only 38.9% were content with their current accommodation. 37.9% felt their finances were inadequate while 15.7% were unsure of their eligibility for different entitlements. 17.6% had personal experience of crime. 39.4% lacked a means of obtaining emergency help. The majority (61.7%) perceived themselves as enjoying excellent/good health. The unmet demand for services, other than transport, varied from 11.6% for laundry services to 0% for PHN visits. Transport services were judged inadequate by 51.5% of the study group. It is concluded that by analysing and cross-analysing in terms of variables used in this study, aspects of health care needs could be targetted for different subgroups within the elderly alone group. While not complete in themselves they would help in the targetting of scarce resources.