Minnesota Tops List of Healthiest States for Seniors

A high percentage of quality nursing home beds is one of the strengths that makes Minnesota the healthiest state for seniors for the second consecutive year in a row, according to a new report that ranks the healthiest states for seniors.

Hawaii ranks second, followed by New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts in the second edition of America’s Health Rankings’ senior report, released by the United Health Foundation.

On the other end of the spectrum is Mississippi, ranked the least healthy state for seniors in the 2014 Senior Report and preceded by Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas, respectively.

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Within the report’s community and environment category – which includes quality nursing homes among other attributes – Minnesota ranks first for macro community and environment, while Louisiana ranks 50th.

State rankings were determined by data including a high rate of annual dental visits, a high percentage of volunteerism, a low percentage of marginal food insecurity, a high percentage of prescription drug coverage and ready availability of home health care workers.

“We commissioned this report to understand and identify ways to improve seniors’ health because Americans are living longer,” Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation, says in a news release.

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In the next 25 years, America’s senior population is expected to double.

In 2008, 3.2 million Americans resided in nursing homes. The report says nursing home resident abuse and neglect is a “major issue” residents face.

“A study of nursing home residents conducted in 2000 found that 44 percent of respondents indicated that they had been abused and 95 percent had either experience neglect themselves or seen other residents being neglected,” the report says, adding the federal government is engaged in several data collection activities in response to the pressing need for current and more compressive data on elder abuse.

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The percentage of quality nursing home beds rated four or five stars varies from a high of 67.3 percent in New Hampshire to less than 33.0 percent in Texas and Louisiana. Nationally, 46.8 percent of certified nursing home beds received a four or five star rating.

Other key findings from the report include a national decrease in senior hospitalizations nationally from last year, with preventable hospitalizations of seniors dropping from 66.6 discharges per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries to 64.9 discharges.

The report is meant to encourage seniors and the people in their lives “to be more active [and talk] about end-of-life plans,” Tuckson says.

Researchers considered more than 30 select health determinants for individuals aged 65 and older and their collective impact on population health at the national and state-by-state level for the report.

They drew data from more than 12 government agencies and leading research organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Labor, The Dartmouth Atlas Project, the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger and the Commonwealth Fund.

View the full report.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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