Report Ranks Healthiest States for Seniors by Home Health Availability

Ready availability of home health workers vaulted Minnesota to the top state for seniors for the second year in a row, according to a new report that ranks the healthiest states for older adults.

Hawaii ranks second, followed by New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts in the second edition of America’s Health Rankings’ senior report, released by the United Health Foundation.

On the other end of the spectrum is Mississippi, ranked the least healthy state for seniors in the 2014 Senior Report and preceded by Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas, respectively.

Within the report’s clinical care category—which includes home health care, among other attributes—Delaware ranks first, while Mississippi ranks 50th.

State rankings were determined by data including a rate of annual dental visits, percentage of volunteerism, percentage of quality nursing home beds, percentage of marginal food insecurity and percentage of prescription drug coverage.

“We commissioned this report to understand and identify ways to improve seniors’ health because Americans are living longer,” Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation, says in a news release.

In the next 25 years, America’s senior population is expected to double, increasing the demand for home health workers.

The availability of home health care workers varies from a high of 299.6 workers per 1,000 adults 75 years and older in Alaska to a low of 26.9 workers per 1,000 adults aged 75 and older in Florida, the report shows. The national average is 95.4 home health care workers per 1,000 adults aged 75 and older.

Other key findings from the report include a national decrease in senior hospitalizations nationally from last year, with preventable hospitalizations of seniors dropping from 66.6 discharges per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries to 64.9 discharges.

Seniors are also more active compared to last year, with physical inactivity declining from 30.3% of the senior population to 28.7%.

“This news points to the idea that seniors are not only managing their health better, but they’re also engaging more with their health and health care, including planning for the future,” the report says.

The report is meant to encourage seniors and the people in their lives “to be more active [and talk] about end-of-life plans,” Tuckson says.

Researchers considered more than 30 select health determinants for individuals aged 65 and older and their collective impact on population health at the national and state-by-state level for the report.

They drew data from more than 12 government agencies and leading research organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Labor, The Dartmouth Atlas Project, the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger and the Commonwealth Fund.

To view the full report, “A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities,” click here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell