United Health Foundation’s annual survey ranked the states according to their health, and Missouri and Kansas didn’t stand out among the healthiest places to live.
They weren’t even in the top 10, a graphic in the March 2016 AARP Bulletin shows. What’s worse is Missouri was among the bottom half of all states ranking No. 38. Kansas wasn’t much better ranking No. 24. The Sunflower State was down from 17 in the last report.
In Kansas, physical inactivity increased 14 percent for seniors over 2014, pain management rose 17 percent and food insecurity went up 17 percent.
The study looked at such things as diet, smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity. These are important issues particularly because 1 in 7 people in the United States today is age 65 and older. In the next 20 years, the rest of the 77 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 will swell that older American demographic category, doubling the senior population by 2050.
“This seniors surge threatens to swamp the health care system at state and national levels,” the foundation report said. “Adults aged 65 and older are the largest consumers of health care because aging carries with it the need for more frequent care.
“The projected growth of the senior population in the United States will pose challenges to policymakers, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, not to mention the effect it will have on families, businesses and health care providers.”
The falling amount of physical activity among older people is a challenge now, and it could grow unless it is arrested. It’s too easy for retired seniors to settle into being couch potatoes.
“Unfortunately, physical inactivity moved in the wrong direction in 2015,” the United Health Foundation report said. “After showing promising improvements in the 2014 edition, this year’s report indicates that 33.1 percent of seniors did not get enough physical activity — a 15 percent increase from the previous year.”
Other challenging areas for the U.S. included food insecurity, up 4 percent for seniors and depression, up 10 percent.
That’s not good, particularly for older Americans. States like Missouri and Kansas can learn from the best practices in states like Vermont, which topped the foundation’s list.
Vermont had a 10 percent decrease in chronic drinking since the last ranking, a 13 percent increase in hospice care and it came in strong in community support. The other top 10 states were New Hampshire with a low percentage of seniors living in poverty and a high number reporting activity, which limits arthritis pain; Minnesota with obesity down 6 percent but physical inactivity up 28 percent for older adults; Hawaii with 12 percent more seniors receiving a flu shot but poor mental health days up 18 percent; Utah with 10 percent more reporting very good or excellent health and a low percentage managing their diabetes; Massachusetts with 22 percent fewer underweight seniors but 27 percent more sedentary adults; Wisconsin with 33 percent fewer reporting poor mental health but a high rate of obesity; Colorado with hospital re-admissions down 6 percent but food insecurity was up 22 percent; Oregon with a low number of falls and hip fractures but a high prevalence of chronic drinking; and Connecticut with 7 percent more people getting flu shots but a high percentage of deaths in hospitals.
Missouri had a 5 percent decrease in obesity but a high number of seniors who needed to have their teeth pulled. The Show-Me State ranked 42nd in the report for seniors who smoke. After all, Missouri — at 17 cents a pack — has the lowest cigarette tax in the country. Kansas had hip fractures drop 21 percent, but the state also had a low rate of adults managing their diabetes. Kansas ranked 27th in the country among seniors who smoke.
Louisiana came in No. 50 in the foundation’s annual survey. It had a high prevalence of flu vaccinations and availability of home health care providers.
“But the high prevalence of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity (in Louisiana) have been yearly challenges, and 2015 challenges include a low percentage of seniors who visited a dentist in the past year and a high prevalence of food insecurity,” which was up 26 percent, the report said. The other five states that made up the bottom starting with 49 were Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
National successes worth cheering included hip fractures being down 15 percent since the last report, declining from 7.3 to 6.2 hospitalizations per 100 000 Medicare beneficiaries. “However, physical inactivity is up 15 percent; this year, 33.1 percent of seniors were inactive, up from 28.7 percent last year,” the report said.
Again, that’s not good for older Americans.