How effective are we–as individuals and as a society–when it comes to maintaining our health as we age? That’s one of the main questions posed by the “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individual and Their Communities,” a nationwide analysis of the factors that contribute to senior well-being, conducted by the United Health Foundation.
The investigation focused on four main factors affecting the health of older adults: clinical care practices (e.g. hospice care, health screenings, home health care), policy (e.g. prescription drug coverage, number of geriatricians compared to the number of seniors in the community), individual behaviors (e.g. smoking, drinking, physical activity) and community and environmental factors (e.g. poverty levels, nursing home quality, food insecurity, volunteerism among seniors).
When it comes to addressing the health needs of America’s ever-aging population, the country appears to be improving in several areas. The past year has resulted in a decrease the rate in unnecessary hospitalizations and hospital deaths, as well as an increase in the number of practicing geriatricians. Nursing home care quality has been enhanced and seniors are, on average, more physically active than they were in 2013. Unfortunately, food insecurity—defined as the inability to access and afford healthy food options—has risen among the elderly.
The following states comprise the top 10 ranking for 2014:
1. Minnesota: Ranked in the top seven for all four health-influencing factors and had the highest proportion of able-bodied elders.
2. Hawaii: Had the lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations in the nation.
3. New Hampshire: Largest availability of beds in high-quality nursing homes and low occurrence of food insecurity among seniors.
4. Vermont: Lowest rate of ICU usage in the country. Ranked high in overall health of the elderly population.
5. Massachusetts: High proportion of seniors making use of health screenings and dental visits.
6. Colorado: Older population more likely to be physically active and less likely to be obese. Rates of volunteerism have greatly increased over the last year.
7. Utah: Ranked lowest in the country with regards to hospital re-admissions and death, and had the highest proportion of seniors using hospice care services.
8. Oregon: Lowest rate of physical inactivity in the nation, coupled with the highest rate of senior-focused social support services.
9. Delaware: Nursing home care quality greatly increased since 2013 and a high number of geriatricians are available to care for elderly residents.
10. Wisconsin: Lowest rate of senior falls in the country. Saw the largest improvement in overall ranking with regards to senior health between 2013 and 2014 (ranked 19th in 2013).
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor