Healthy Choices

California drops to 29th in U.S. senior health rankings

Joe Miguel, 82, leads a class in Strength and Balance, Jan. 9, 2015, at the Hart Senior Center. He and his wife, Bubbles, have been volunteering there for 20 years. California’s seniors are drinking more, moving less and experiencing more mental health issues than in the past, according to the 2015 America’s Health Rankings
 
Senior Report, released Wednesday, May 20, 2015.
Joe Miguel, 82, leads a class in Strength and Balance, Jan. 9, 2015, at the Hart Senior Center. He and his wife, Bubbles, have been volunteering there for 20 years. California’s seniors are drinking more, moving less and experiencing more mental health issues than in the past, according to the 2015 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, released Wednesday, May 20, 2015. lsterling@sacbee.com

California’s seniors are drinking more, moving less and experiencing more mental health issues than in the past, according to the 2015 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, released Wednesday.

The annual report was assembled by the United Health Foundation, the nonprofit arm of United Health Group, which also owns insurance provider UnitedHealthcare.

Last year, California ranked 18th in the nation for senior care but dropped to 29th in this year’s report.

The report tracks 35 measures for senior health in each state using data from several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor. Categories assessed included behavior, community and environment, policy, clinical care, outcomes and supplemental measures.

On a national level, the study found that seniors are experiencing fewer hospital readmissions and are more likely to spend their final days in a setting of their choice.

California’s downward shift in the ranking could be due in part to a downward trend in senior exercise. Though California seniors are still more active than seniors in other states, their rates of physical inactivity have increased 29 percent in the past two years, said Dr. Jeff Mason, senior medical director for UnitedHealthCare.

“It’s a large drop,” Mason said of the new ranking. “Seniors tend to have a higher burden of chronic illness that needs to be kept in check. It’s important to have routine follow-up care.”

Also concerning, he said, is the low number of seniors enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (also called CalFresh), and the 23 percent increase in seniors with a chronic drinking problem.

The study also reported a 2 percent decrease in seniors with a dedicated health care provider. Mason attributes that change to a lack of available providers for a larger insured population under the Affordable Care Act.

Here are some of the study’s findings for California seniors:

▪ 8th for smoking rates, which means there are fewer California seniors smoking compared with the rest of the country

▪ 46th for chronic drinking

▪ 4th least likely to be obese

▪ 50th place for SNAP enrollment

▪ 48th worst for poor mental health days in previous 30 days

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