The healthiest states for seniors are ones that reflect both individual well-being and access to key health and community resources, according to a report from United Health Foundation (UHF).
Scoring the highest marks of all 50 states: Minnesota.
“States with healthy seniors have a combination of positive personal behaviors and community support, which demonstrate that improving senior health will only come about by acting on individual, family, community and state levels,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior advisor to UHF.
Among 34 health determinants considered in the study, were annual dental visits, a high percentage of volunteerism, creditable drug coverage, availability of home health care workers and a low percentage of marginal food insecurity—across which Minnesota ranks first, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa.
The state also ranks first for health outcomes, including a low rate of hospitalization for hip fractures; a high percentage of seniors who report “very good” or “excellent” health; a high prevalence of able-bodied seniors; low premature death rate; low prevalence of full-mouth tooth extractions; and few poor mental health days per month.
Mississippi ranks 50th, as it faces a high percentage of seniors living in poverty that are at risk of hunger and a high rate of premature death. The state also faces a low percentage of seniors who report “very good” or “excellent” health, as well as a low rate of annual dental visits. Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas follow Mississippi at the bottom of the rankings.
While each state’s aging population faces their own unique challenges, caring for the greater nation’s senior demographic presents a looming crisis for the U.S. health care system, the report finds.
Today, 1 in 8 Americans are aged 65 and older, according to UHF. By 2050, this age group is projected to more than double in size, from 40.3 million to 88.5 million.
This increased number of older adults, combined with increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases are on track to overwhelm our health care system, notes UHF.
The number of chronic illnesses among seniors is “unnecessarily high,” according to Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior advisor to UHF and chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement.
“The coordination of care for seniors, particularly the 50 percent of the population with multiple chronic illnesses, is complex and increases pressure on our country’s caregivers and out health care system,” said Randall.
Written by Jason Oliva