Healthiest State for Seniors: Minnesota

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 02:31 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Minnesota is the nation's healthiest state for older adults, according to a new study.

The North Star State won the No. 1 spot with its high access to doctors and health services and large number of seniors who report being in excellent health, according to the non-profit United Health Foundation.
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"Minnesota’s strengths include high rates of annual dental visits and creditable drug coverage, relatively high availability of home health care workers, and a low rate of seniors at risk of hunger," the foundation said.
"[The] ranking also reflects a low rate of hospitalization for hip fractures [and] more able-bodied seniors."
Minnesota is followed in top ranking by Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Hawaii, Connecticut, Colorado, Utah, and Maryland.
The worst state for seniors is Mississippi, preceded by Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Nevada, and Tennessee.
"Mississippi’s challenges include a high percentage of seniors who live in poverty and are at risk of hunger, a high rate of premature death, as well as a low percentage of seniors who report very good or excellent health and a low rate of annual dental visits," the foundation said.
 
"Mississippi scored well for a low prevalence of chronic drinking and a high rate of flu vaccination."
 
The foundation's findings are included in its "America’s Health Rankings Senior Report," which examines the health of seniors and encourage the nation, local communities and families to take action to improve senior health.
 
"This is an especially timely issue given the fact that Americans are living longer but sicker lives and that America’s senior population is expected to grow more than 50 percent between 2015 and 2030," the foundation said.
 
The study also found that older Americans are experiencing troubling rates of chronic illness.
 
Nationally, about 80 percent of seniors are living with at least one chronic condition. About 50 percent of seniors have two or more chronic conditions.
 
States with the lowest percentage of seniors with multiple chronic conditions are Alaska, Wyoming and Montana, while states with the highest percentages are Florida and New Jersey.

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“Chronic illness is unnecessarily high among seniors,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, a senior advisor to United Health Foundation.
 
“The coordination of care for seniors, particularly the 50 percent of the population with multiple chronic illnesses, is complex and increases pressure on our country’s caregivers and our health care system."
 
One of the biggest issues for seniors is obesity, which affects more than 25 percent of adults ages 65 and older, according to the study. The prevalence of obesity among seniors varies from a low of about 16.9 percent in Hawaii and 18.1 percent in Nevada to a high of nearly 30 percent in Michigan and Alaska.
 
Obesity rates among individuals ages 50 to 64 increased more than 7 percent from 1995 to 2010, indicating  the next generation of seniors will experience even higher rates of obesity compared with current seniors.
 
Another issue facing seniors is poverty, which prevents many seniors from meeting their health needs.
 
Nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older live at or below the federal poverty line, the study said.
 
"The percentage by state of seniors living at or below the poverty line ranges from a low of about 5 percent in Alaska and just over 6 percent in Utah, New Hampshire and Wyoming to a high of more than 12 percent in Louisiana and New Mexico and more than 13 percent in Mississippi."
 

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