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How Healthy Are Seniors in Your State?

 Updated 8/7/15 2:12pm | Alert1 has revised this article with stats from the recent 2015 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report. The United Health Foundation releases this yearly analysis in support of healthier seniors.

The study is designed to understand senior health and ranks fifty states based on the health levels of seniors who live there.  The report also includes details on the programs and services that benefit senior health. Finally, it also addresses the challenges faced in providing better senior care.

The report’s ultimate goal is to highlight where states stand on senior health to generate greater awareness and knowledge. This article will help you evaluate your senior health and provide ideas on where to take the first step towards making a change. 

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How healthy are seniors in Texas? In New Hampshire?

Where does your state stand in the senior health spectrum? Listed below are the fifty states in order of best to worst: 

1

Vermont

26

New Jersey

2

New Hampshire

27

Florida

3

Minnesota

28

Virginia

4

Hawaii

29

California

5

Utah

30

Ohio

6

Massachusetts

31

Alaska

7

Wisconsin

32

North Carolina

8

­­Colorado

33

New Mexico

9

Oregon

34

Montana

10

Connecticut

35

Wyoming

11

Maine

36

South Carolina

12

Washington

37

Illinois

13

Maryland

38

Missouri

14

Rhode Island

39

Georgia

15

Iowa

40

Indiana

16

Nebraska

41

Texas

17

Michigan

42

Alabama

18

Delaware

43

Nevada

19

North Dakota

44

Tennessee

20

Idaho

45

West Virginia

21

New York

46

Oklahoma

22

Arizona

47

Arkansas

23

South Dakota

48

Kentucky

24

Kansas

49

Mississippi

25

Pennsylvania

50

Louisiana

The prize bull goes to Vermont, ranking first. Factors that helped Vermont take first place include:

  • More dental visits
  • High rate of volunteers
  • Better quality nursing home beds
  • Higher food security
  • Better drug prescription coverage
  • Availability of home health care workers

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New Hampshire follows in second. The impressive senior health there was helped by a low smoking rate and low rate of obesity for seniors. In addition, New Hampshire ranks well on the availability of geriatricians. This allows seniors access to the care and knowledge they need to make good choices.

The next states at the runner up positions include: Minnesota (third), Hawaii (fourth) and Utah (fifth).

The lowest ranked state was Lousiana. The state faced multiple contributing factors ranging from general bad senior health to higher poverty levels which lead to a lack of access to care. Many of these senior health concerns were shared by other low ranking states such as Mississipi, Kentucky, and Arkansas which took up spots 47 through 49 on the list.

What are senior health issues today?

General improvements from the previous year include:

  • Increase in physical exercise. The percentage of physical inactivity declined from 30.3 percent to 28.7 percent.
  • Better quality beds in nursing homes. The quality rating of nursing home beds increased from 42 percent to 46.8 percent.
  • Preventable hospitalizations decreased. Of 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, 66.6 discharges lowered to 64.9.

General challenges for all states include food security and flu vaccines. Food security increased from 13.6 percent to 14.3 percent, which means that food is not easily accessible for seniors. Flu vaccines available to seniors in the US dropped from 60.6 percent to 59.4 percent.

What challenges do seniors face today?

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A challenge faced by seniors in all fifty states is abuse. Senior abuse can mean physical abuse or financial exploitation.

Ten percent of seniors, roughly ten million, have suffered through elder abuse. Seniors harmed by physical means are more likely to make use of the healthcare system. This can lead to financial strain due to healthcare expenditures.

Financial exploitation can come in the form of a swindling family members as well as external factors. Five percent of seniors have suffered from some form of financial abuse. The recent robodials scamming seniors for their personal information come to mind.

How to improve the state of senior health?

The report states that improving senior health requires improving health determinants. These determinants include: behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care.

‘Behaviors’ range from dental and physician checkups to eating right to physical activity. ‘Community and environment’ relates to the community available to support seniors. On the flipside, this also includes the in-home, familial environment that supports seniors. ‘Policy’ entails the resources available to help seniors. ‘Clinical care’ includes the types of care available and the accessibility to such quality care.

Helping to improve these determinants can improve the state of senior health. Apart from rousing health professionals, policymakers and the media, how can you help your state move up on the list?

Help your loved one eat healthier and work out more. Volunteer and increase the quality of home care at your local assisted living facility. Help to deliver home meals to seniors through nonprofit organizations. Buy your loved one a senior medical alert system. The list goes on. And so can the amount of help you can provide.

Read the full report to learn about the state of senior health in your locality. Use this tool to help your local senior community. 

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What is the United Health Foundation?

The United Health Foundation is a nonprofit, private foundation dedicated to improving public health and health care. The Foundation strives to support access to better health care services. The United Health Foundation also delivers information to better the health outcomes of communities. The 2014 Health Rankings Senior Report uses data collected from twelve government agencies.