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Connected and Healthy Older Adults

Older adults and persons with disabilities must be emotionally and physically healthy, financially secure and socially connected.

When we support the health and wellness of adults and older adults, we ensure that our community is a healthy place to grow and age for all residents. As the total number of older adults in our region continues to increase in the years ahead, we must do everything possible to make sure these residents are cared for and supported.

Older adults who live below poverty thresholds face limited choices and limited resources that may negatively impact their quality of life. They are at risk of having inadequate financial resources to ensure a quality diet, housing, health care and other needs. The challenges of living below poverty thresholds create living situations that can become unmanageable for many older adults.

Because poverty thresholds are only about 30% of the region’s median income, a more comprehensive picture of economic vulnerability of older adults includes individuals in households with incomes below 200% of poverty thresholds (or twice the poverty thresholds).

Premature age-adjusted mortality measures the number of deaths among residents under the age of 75 per 100,000 population. It is a general measure of population health. Understanding premature mortality rates across localities and investigating the underlying causes of high rates of premature death can provide insight into the strategies and interventions needed to improve the health of people in our community.

According to the County Health Rankings, this measure is self-reported from adults who answered the question “In general, would you say that your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?” Research shows that as we age, the risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes increases.

We know that the population of older adults in our community is growing. Understanding adults in poor or fair health will help ensure that services and resources are available to help address the health needs of adults in our region and promote healthy aging.

Studies have shown that people without insurance often receive less medical care and have worse health outcomes than people with insurance. An unexpected health problem can also become a major financial burden for people without insurance as well as people who are under-insured. Surveys of bankruptcy filers have found that health expenses are the most common contributing factor in financial problems.

Household structure can impact a person’s well-being. Older adults who live alone can be at risk for social isolation and reduced quality of life if there are co-existing conditions such as poverty, lack of transportation, illness, disease or disability. Recent research has focused on the connection between social isolation and poor health. Studies have found that social isolation negatively impacts a person’s health equal in consequence to smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. People who are socially isolated may have weaker immune systems and recover more slowly from illness than people with strong social connections. People who are socially isolated are also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.