The healthiest places to live for American seniors

Minnesota tops the list, while Mississippi ranks last

Minnesota is the healthiest state for elderly Americans, according to the United Health Foundation's (UHF) latest "America's Health Rankings Senior Report," a special second edition of the annual "America's Health Rankings" report.

For the report, which focuses on the health and lifestyles of Americans ages 65 and older, researchers used data from more than one dozen federal agencies and private research associations to assess seniors' health in each state using 34 measures, including the availability of home health care workers, quality of nursing homes, and prescription drug coverage.

Nursing home report card: Eleven states get an 'F'

According to the report, the five healthiest states for seniors are:

1. Minnesota
2. Hawaii
3. New Hampshire
4. Vermont
5. Massachusetts

Meanwhile, the five least healthy states for seniors are:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Kentucky
4. Oklahoma
5. Arkansas

The full list: See how each state ranked in 2013

States that rank highest for senior health tended to have a greater availability of home health care workers, as well as high quality nursing homes and strong networks of community organizations developed to encourage healthy living habits in seniors.

According to the report, seniors are now more engaged in end-of-life planning and are exercising more frequently. In addition, preventable hospitalizations declined from 66.6 discharges per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries in 2013 to 64.9 discharges in 2014, and quality nursing home beds increased, with 46.8% receiving a four- or five-star ranking.

However, Reed Tuckson, an external health advisor to UHF, says even healthy states face challenges. For instance, he notes an increasing number of senior U.S. residents are living with chronic conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and arthritis.  Specifically, the report finds that about 25% of older adults are obese, and 36% are living with four or more chronic conditions.

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In response to the report, Tuckson says, "We have to turn the spigot off when it comes to people with chronic diseases." He adds, "If we don't all attend to this, the quality of life for seniors will be diminished, and that won't be good for anyone," noting that each state has specific challenges to  address (UHF report, May 2014; UHF release, 5/21; Emling, Huffington Post, 5/21; Stawicki, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 5/22).

Learn about healthy aging centers

As the number of elderly individuals in the U.S. continues to grow, hospitals are increasingly seeking means to reach and better serve this quickly expanding demographic. Progressive hospitals are offering senior-specific programs to individuals approximately 50 years of age or older, both in order to provide valuable services to community members and to generate downstream volumes or revenue by fostering loyalty to the hospital through membership.

Learn about the programs now.

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