Top States for Seniors’ Health in 2017

Staying healthy is a vital part of being able to age-in-place, and residents of Minnesota, Utah, and Hawaii appear to have a leg up on other seniors across the country.

That’s because these are the three healthiest three states in the union for older adults, according to the 2017 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report from the United Health Foundation, a private nonprofit founded by insurance giant United Health Group in 1999.

Last year’s healthiest state, Massachusetts, fell to the number six spot. Likewise, 2016’s runner-up and third-healthiest states, Vermont and New Hampshire, tumbled to ranks eighth and fifth, respectively.

The rankings are based on how the states score on 34 core measures, such as obesity, smoking, poverty, excessive drinking, and health screenings. Home health care availability, as determined by Bureau of Labor Statistics data on number of aides per 1,000 adults aged 75 and older, was one of the core measures. Alaska was tops in this category, followed by Minnesota, New York, New Mexico, and Texas.

Source: America’s Health Rankings Senior Report 2017

Here’s this year’s list of the healthiest states overall:

1. Minnesota

2. Utah

3. Hawaii

4. Colorado

5. New Hampshire

6. Massachusetts

7. Connecticut

8. Vermont

9. Washington

10. Wisconsin

Mississippi ranked lowest on the list, preceded by Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. That’s actually a slight improvement for the The Pelican State, which sat at the very bottom last year.

Some states shot up in the rankings. California, for instance, improved 12 places, from 28th to 16th place. The Golden State likely can trace its successes to decreases in smoking, physical activity, and obesity. South Dakota also climbed the ladder, going from 25th to 15th place in this year’s rankings on decreases in excessive drinking, an increase in able-bodied seniors, better pain management, and a growing number of seniors with dedicated health providers.

For other states, the news was not so good. Pennsylvania, which has struggled with high percentages of end-of-life ICU use and a low quality of nursing home beds, tumbled from 18th place to 26th place in one year’s time. Alaska, where excessive drinking and obesity are more prevalent in older adults, also fell eight points, going from 21st to 29th place.

Nationwide trends

Some clinical care measures for Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 have improved on the whole since 2013, according to the latest numbers. Recent notable achievements include a 25% reduction in preventable hospitalizations, a 30% decrease in hospital deaths, a 7% decrease in hospital readmissions, and a 9% reduction in visits to the ICU in the last six months of life.

But the new survey data also shows some troubling signs related to seniors’ savings. About 62% of retired seniors over the age of 65 have less in total retirement savings than what some experts recommend for just health care costs. Current and future seniors who have saved $20,000 or less are more likely to be in poor health and suffer from chronic diseases than those who have more money.

Additionally, about half of all surveyed retired seniors and 36% of non-retired adults between the ages of 50 and 64 don’t know or have no opinion on how much money they’ll need for both expected and unexpected health care costs during retirement.

For the full results, read this year’s report.

Written by Tim Regan with Tim Mullaney

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