Top 10 Healthiest States for Seniors

Many seniors are drawn to warm weather states during their retirement years, but they may want to consider the Northeast as the best location for their health.

Massachusetts has snagged honors as the healthiest state for older adults in the 2016 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report from the United Health Foundation, a not-for-profit, private foundation established by insurance giant United Health Group in 1999. The Bay State shot up six spots this year, largely thanks to a 20% decrease in smoking rates, which led the state to rise 20 spots on that measure.

Several Northeast states joined Massachusetts in the top 10:

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1. Massachusetts

2. Vermont

3. New Hampshire

4. Minnesota

5. Hawaii

6. Utah

7. Colorado

8. Maine

9. Connecticut

10. Washington

As it did last year, Louisiana ranked lowest, joined at the bottom by Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

The rankings are based on how the states score on 35 core measures. These cover a variety of domains, including behaviors such as smoking; community and environmental factors such as poverty and home-delivered meals; policy issues such as prescription drug coverage; and clinical care concerns such as flu vaccine rates.

Access to quality independent or assisted living communities is not among the core measures, although nursing home quality, home health access, and hospice care all are considered.

Nationwide, there has been an 18% increase in the availability of home health care workers nationwide over the past three years, and a 40% increase in hospice use, the report notes.

In terms of nursing home quality, North Dakota, Hawaii, Maine, and New Hampshire led the pack, based on percentage of nursing home beds rated 4 or 5 stars on the government’s Home Health Compare system. Louisiana ranked lowest, in the company of Texas and West Virginia.

Every state has a mixture of strong categories and weaker ones, the report emphasizes. Top dog Massachusetts still posts a high prevalence of excessive drinking, while a silver lining in Louisiana is the ready availability of home health care workers.

Source: America's Health Rankings 2016 Senior Report
Source: America’s Health Rankings 2016 Senior Report

Some states have emerged as senior health success stories in the past year, including two others in the Northeast, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Rhode Island went from No. 30 in 2015 to No. 11 overall this year, having achieved a 24% decrease in preventable hospitalizations and a 23% decrease in smoking. New Jersey climbed from No. 28 to No. 16 on the strength of measures such as a 19% decrease in hip fractures.

Senior living providers looking for markets with a high proportion of older adults may want to turn their attention northward—far northward. Alaska’s senior population is projected to grow at the fastest rate between now and 2030, at 85.1%.

New Hampshire and Texas also have fast-growing senior populations, while New York and West Virginia are at the other end of the spectrum.

Read the complete report.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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