An Elder in Exile
How to End Sexism, Racism (and Ageism Too)

States Ranked for Healthy Aging

Yesterday, the United Health Foundation published the first comprehensive state-by-state analysis of elder health in the U.S. As Judith Graham (disclosure: she is a friend) reports at Kaiser Health News:

”Overall rankings in the report are based on a composite score of 34 measures of senior health, with data drawn from more than a dozen government agencies and organizations such as the Dartmouth Atlas Project and the Commonwealth Fund.

Among those 34 measures of elder health, reports Judith, are:

  • smoking and chronic alcohol consumption
  • the extent of poverty and funding for community supports
  • the availability of geriatricians and the extent of drug coverage for seniors
  • clinical care and the delivery of health care services
  • the number of preventable hospitalizations and hospital readmissions

Of course, you are wondering how your state ranks. If you live in Minnesota, congratulations. It wins the number one spot as the healthiest state for old people. Directly behind it are Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa.

However, if you live in Mississippi, your state is the bookend to Minnesota. (Poor ol' Mississippi; it comes in last in so many (too many) quality-of-life measurements.)

Moving up the rankings from there are Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas.

In addition to these overall rankings, the report includes color-coded maps to illustrate each state's incidence of obesity, tobacco use, diabetes and physical inactivity for people 65 and older.

This is the obesity map – the estimated percentage of those in the age group with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher:


You can find your state's rankings in all the categories within the full report here. Click on a state (at that website) for a full description of findings.

Don't you love it when someone does your work for you? Judith further notes in her story:

”Several findings are sobering, although not altogether new. Notably, only 38.4 percent of older adults rated their health as 'very good or excellent' in 2011.

“One in every five seniors said they did not get sufficient social and emotional support, putting them at risk of isolation and loneliness, conditions known to have an adverse impact on older adults’ health.”

Judith also included a (to me) shocking statistic about chronic illness I had never run across before:

“Nearly 80 percent of the 65-plus population has been diagnosed with at least one such illness; half the population has received a diagnosis of two or more chronic conditions.”

Judith's story has more overall detail and there is a lot of information for each state at America's Health Rankings website.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowensterm: Zzzzzzzz


I live in Oklahoma and can attest to the fact that health conditions and resources are simply terrible here. However, I'm surprised to see Washington also has poor healthcare. I've been planning to move to Oregon or Washington for better health care resources, so will have to investigate this a bit more I guess. Thanks for the info!

While the statistics are interesting, I don't know what to do with them.

I found the map had some surprises (Washington State, Wisconsin and New York being in the same ranking as most of the deep South states). Perhaps geography doesn't contribute as much to our standard of living as does the availability of quality health care and activity outlets.

I clicked on my state, Arizona, and found that the Hispanic population had a much higher obesity rate than the white population. I guess it's all those frijoles.

I'm pretty sure some other study has rated Colorado as "the skinniest state," which is understandable given the insane interest here in all things outdoors. As for me, I raised Oklahoma's rating and lowered Colorado's by moving to CO!

I'm among those 80%. Hopefully I can improve those stats for CA when I can walk again.

The 80 percent statistic is somewhat misleading, as it includes garden-variety ailments as well as serious illnesses. The stat I used when I was writing about these things was that 80 percent those who reached the age of 60 had at least one chronic ailment. That could mean a stiff knee or Stage IV cancer. It's pretty hard to live 60 years and not have some kind of road wear, but this is exactly the info insurance companies use to disqualify applicants or deny coverage.

I suspect I'm among that 80% as well according to my preventively oriented HMO. But I'm still truckin ...

I recently moved from the healthy to the chronic condition column.

I tried to leave a comment several times to this interesting post, but the software seemed to eat my comment. It showed up as having been posted but later disappeared.

Sorry about the problem, Madeleine. It won't take my comments either although they are not really lost.

Typepad is aware of the problem but they have not gotten back to me with a fix yet. I need to go into the platform and publish any comments that don't appear, but I don't get to it as often as I should.

Glad you could finally post this.

I agree that the distinction between having no chronic conditions (i.e., being healthy)and having one or more chronic conditions(i.e., being unhealthy) is misleading.

One example of a chronic condition is high blood pressure--which is easily controlled by an inexpensive generic prescription drug.

Even Type 2 diabetes--while chronic--can be so well managed that a person with it can be as healthy as someone without it. I know this from ten years of experience.

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