State Rankings for Health of Seniors

By: - May 29, 2013 12:00 am

Carlos Maisonet, 73, gets a flu shot at Brooklyn Hospital in New York. The healthiest states for seniors to live are Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa, according to a new report. (AP)

Minnesota is the healthiest state for the elderly andMississippi the least healthy for the 65 and over set, according to a report by the UnitedHealth Foundation.

Among Minnesota’s strengths, the report says, are high ratesof annual dental visits among the state’s elderly, credible drug coverage,relatively high availability of home care workers and a low rate of seniors atrisk for hunger.

Just behind Minnesota at the top of the rankings areVermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa.

What landed Mississippi at the bottom of the list: A highpercentage of elderly living in poverty and at hunger risk, a high rate ofpremature death, a low percentage of seniors who describe themselves as in verygood or excellent health, and a low rate of annual dentist visits among the aged.

Joining Mississippi at the bottom of the list are Oklahoma,Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas.

Titled “A Call to Action for Individuals and TheirCommunities,” the report used 34 different measures in assessing each of thestates. The foundation said it plans to update the seniors report every year.

 The United HealthFoundation has done overall health rankings of the states for nearly 25 yearsbut this is the first time it has focused solely on the health of olderAmericans. It chose to do so because of the paradox that while Americans areliving longer, they are also experiencing chronic illnesses earlier in life. Nearly80 percent of seniors have at least one chronic illness and a quarter areobese, according to the report.

The trends could get dramatically worse. One ineight Americans is now 65 or older; another 79 million baby boomers are expectedto arrive into that category in the next 20 years. “The growing number ofseniors combined with the increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronicdiseases may overwhelm our ability to care for our seniors,” the report said.

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Michael Ollove

Michael Ollove covers health care for Stateline. Ollove worked for many years at The Baltimore Sun, as an enterprise reporter and an editor.