Vermont has replaced Minnesota as the healthiest state for seniors while Louisiana ranks as the most unhealthy, according to a new report released Wednesday by the United Health Foundation, a non-profit arm of insurer UnitedHealth Group.
The third edition of “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action,” uses more than 30 measurements of health data to grade each state’s performance in providing a healthy environment for men and women ages 65 and over – one of the nation’s fastest-growing age groups.
Vermont seniors’ high use of the federal food stamp program, low use of hospital intensive care units and easy access to home-delivered meals helped make the state the nation’s healthiest.
New Hampshire finished second followed by Minnesota, Hawaii and Utah.
Louisiana seniors’ low percentage of dentist visits, high percentage of low-care nursing home residents and high levels of hunger helped drop the state from 44th in 2014 to dead last in this year’s ranking.
Mississippi was the next most-unhealthy state for seniors followed by Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The report found that preventable hospitalizations for seniors fell 8.6 percent from 65 percent of discharges for Medicare beneficiaries in 2014 to 59.3 percent in 2015. That’s an 11 percent decline since the 2013 report.
But after improving last year, physical inactivity rates worsened in 2015 with one in three seniors reporting no physical activity or exercise outside of work. That’s a 15.3 percent increase from last year’s rate of nearly 29 percent.
“It is heartening to see seniors’ health is improving, but our societal challenge remains finding ways to encourage more seniors to be more active,” said Rhonda Randall, senior adviser to the Untied Health Foundation.
To view “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report,” go to www.americashealthrankings.org/senior