Bay State moves into top slot in senior health rankings

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BOSTON – Older adults in the Bay State fare much better in terms of their overall health compared with the rest of the nation.

Moving up from sixth place, Massachusetts ranked first in a recent survey of the health of older residents, according to the state Health and Human services office. It cited the 2016 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report from the United Health Foundation in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

“This report highlights the outstanding collaborative work being done by state agencies and our private partners in ensuring the health and wellness of our older adults,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. Massachusetts replaced Vermont at the top of the list, pushing the Green Mountain State to second place while New Hampshire ranked third.

Changes that pushed Massachusetts to the top included increased rates of physical activity among people 65 years old or older, fewer people smoking and a decline in the rate of hip fractures, the rankings show. Also, United Health cited a greater availability of community support for older adults and a rise in the number of home health-care workers in the state over the past three years.

The report gauges the health of older adults on a national and state-by-state basis using 35 measures such as chronic or excessive drinking, depression rates and the proportion experiencing food insecurity. The study suggests the state still has a relatively high rate of excessive drinking and deaths while in hospitals, as well as a low volunteer rate among older residents.

“It is gratifying to see that older adults are living longer and healthier lives and that the state plays a role in helping them maintain their independence and good health – both mental and physical,” Marylou Sudders, the state Health and Human Services secretary, said in the statement.

All New England states ranked in the top 10 except Rhode Island, but it came in in 11th place and was among those making the greatest strides, according to the foundation. The Ocean State climbed from 30th in the previous survey. Minnesota ranked highest among non-New England states, at fourth, while Washington, Hawaii, Utah and Colorado rounded out the top 10.

The lowest-placing states in terms of older residents’ health were Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi. Arkansas and West Virginia, the foundation said.