Vermont, New Hampshire Top List of Healthiest States for Seniors

Vermont ranks as the healthiest state for seniors in 2015 thanks in part to low intensive care unit (ICU) use and ready availability of home-delivered meals, new research shows.

New Hampshire ranks second. Minnesota falls to third after being ranked first for two years in a row, while Hawaii and Utah round out the top five states, respectively, according to the newest edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.

Louisiana ranks 50th as the least healthy state for older adults, preceded by Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma, research shows.

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But even the top ranking state has areas in which to improve, including a high prevalence of chronic drinking, low hospice care use and high prevalence of falls.

“It is heartening to see seniors’ health is improving, but our societal challenge remains finding ways to encourage more seniors to be more active,” says Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer and executive vice president, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions, in a statement.

Strong community support is key to promoting positive health among seniors, Randall says.

“We must work together – across states, communities and our own families – to encourage all seniors to find ways to be as active as they’re able to be,” she says.

The report also finds that the number of home care workers has increased 9.3% compared to last year.

The jump might be explained by home care becoming “an increasingly accessible option for today’s seniors,” the report says.

Hospice care, which can be delivered in a home setting, is also on the rise. Hospice care increased from 47.5% to 50.6% of decedents aged 65 and older, while hospital deaths decreased from 25% to 22.8% of decedents.

In addition, preventable hospitalizations dropped 8.6%, from 64.9% of discharges for Medicare beneficiaries last year to 59.3% of discharges in 2015, data show.

“Progress in key metrics such as preventable hospitalizations and hospice care shows that more seniors are aging comfortably and receiving preferred types of support – a trend that reflects seniors’ well-being at each step of the aging process and benefits our health care system,” says Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We are excited to be making progress toward strong, personalized care for all seniors and look forward to seeing continued momentum in this area.”

Read the report here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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