Arizona falls in national rankings for senior health, report finds

May 22, 2018, 4:38 AM
(Pexels photo)...
(Pexels photo)
(Pexels photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona fell eight points in this year’s senior report from America’s Health Ranking, tying with Florida at No. 31 in the country for the states with the healthiest seniors.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, a senior medical adviser with the United Health Foundation, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that this year’s report looked deeper into the health of seniors, particularly those 65 and older.

The report looked at 34 different measures, including individual behavior, community wellness and how prepared a city is to care for the elderly.

“Every state that we look at in this report has its strengths and weaknesses,” Randall said. “That’s true for Arizona as well.”

Although Arizona ranked 31st in the report, it ranked number one in hospice care and succeeded in prescription drug coverage. More than 87 percent of seniors who live in Arizona have prescription drug coverage.

The percentage of Arizona residents who are on Medicare and are dying in the hospital is down significantly, Randall added.

But Randall said there were a few areas where Arizona had the opportunity to improve.

“Snap Reach, also referred to as the food stamp program where seniors over the age of 60, living in poverty, and eligible for the program, are not accessing at the same rate as they could,” she said.

The second area Arizona could improve in was the flu vaccination: Only 53 percent of seniors in Arizona got their flu shot last year.

“It’s super important that seniors get vaccinated every year for the flu, even when we don’t have a perfect (vaccination) match,” Randall said.

“There’s good protection and it helps boost your immune system, and we know that seniors are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the flu. There’s a very high risk of hospitalization and even death.”

Randall said it was important to take a look at the measures that were making Arizona drop in the rankings.

“It could be a combination of areas where other states have improved in a greater rate than Arizona.”

National trends that were noted in the report indicated a significant difference between seniors that lived in rural areas versus those who live in urban areas. The report indicated seniors who live in rural areas face greater health challenges.

“For example, seniors who live in rural areas are less likely to be physically active, less likely to report themselves in good health, and they are more likely to report they have had a fall,” Randall said.

A second national finding was that suicide rates have increased among the senior population.

“It’s very concerning that senior suicide has increased 12 percent across the nation since 2014,” Randall said. “Men over the age of 85 years old who attempt suicide are more likely to have a lethal attempt and be successful.”

The sixth-annual version of America’s Health Ranking’s Senior Report, which was published by the United Health Foundation, builds on the foundation of three decades of research.

Utah was reported to have the healthiest seniors in the country, followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Colorado. Louisiana came in at No. 50 for the unhealthiest seniors, followed by Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

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Arizona falls in national rankings for senior health, report finds