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Thinking about retiring in MA? See where MA ranks in senior healthcare

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There comes a time in everyone's life when they think about finding a place to grow old in. Some people make this decision a long time ago, others only do it when retirement approaches.

Many factors go into this decision – family, friends, community, the weather. But how many geriatricians are there in the state? Or what is the level of social isolation?

The United Health Foundation has released the America's Health Rankings 2024 Senior Report, using data collected by the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Census Bureau, among others, to rank states on their strengths and weaknesses in health care and quality of life for older adults.

“Understanding the health status of the growing and diverse population of older adults provides a unique opportunity to develop creative, holistic, collaborative and community-based solutions that improve their health and well-being – and, in turn, the overall health of our nation,” the report's summary states.

New England was well represented overall in the top 10, with Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut in the top 10 and Massachusetts coming in 12th.

The individual state rankings were the sum of 52 weighted statistics considered health indicators for residents ages 65 and older. While Massachusetts performed extremely well in some categories, its poor rating in others led to a decline.

Where did Massachusetts rank?

The state of Massachusetts ranked first in the categories of “lowest number of firearm deaths,” “SNAP coverage,” “charitable spending,” and “percent of population subject to smoking bans.”

It also scored well for its low number of early deaths (2nd) and low suicide rate (3rd). Access to health care was also among the best in the country, with a good ratio of geriatricians to adults over 65 and over 97% of those adults having their own health care provider, both ranking second in the country.

In addition, nearly 50% of adults over 65 reported that their health would be very good or excellent in 2022.

Where did Massachusetts perform worst?

According to the report, the three biggest challenges for the state are the high number of avoidable hospital stays, the high burden of housing costs and the risk of social isolation.

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Although the quality and access to health care is among the best in the country, many seniors go to the hospital unnecessarily, leading to rising health care costs and the risk of medical complications. Massachusetts ranks 44th in the number of preventable hospitalizations among adults ages 65 to 74, according to the report.

Housing cost burden refers to the percentage of households with one or more adults age 65 and older for which housing costs represent 30% or more of household income. In Massachusetts, this figure was 40.3%, ranking it 48th in the nation.

The risk of social isolation was rated on an index of one to 100 based on factors such as living in poverty, living alone, divorce, separation or widowhood, never having been married, disability and difficulty living independently. Massachusetts scored 62 on the index, ranking 34th in the country.

Which states performed best and worst overall in terms of older people's health?

The five states with the highest overall ratings for senior health were Utah, Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire and Minnesota.

The last five were Arkansas (45), Oklahoma (46), Kentucky (47), West Virginia (48), Louisiana (49) and Mississippi (50).

Anna Harden

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