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A new report shows the impacts of the pandemic on seniors

Elderly people holding hands - close-up on hands.
The United Health Foundation’s 11th America’s Health Rankings Senior Report highlights the challenges and strengths in the health of individuals 60 and over in Florida and across the country.

It shows early deaths among Florida seniors are on the rise. Housing cost burdens are also among the highest in the nation.

The United Health Foundation’s 11th America’s Health Rankings Senior Report highlights the challenges and strengths in the health of individuals 60 and over in Florida and across the country.

While some statistics show growing strengths in older Americans’ lives, such as a national increase in high-speed internet access and a significant decrease in food insecurity, the report points to the negative implications of social isolation as severe.

Physical inactivity, volunteerism, frequent physical distress, and early deaths all worsened on a national level for America’s older adults.

“These concerning numbers should serve as a wake-up call to focus more on the mental and physical well-being of seniors everywhere,” said Dr. Joel Caschette, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement Plans of Florida, in a news release.

“Preserving social connectedness, mobility, and independence contributes to the quality of life for older Americans. It’s important for us to learn from the data of this report and focus on promoting the well-being of all older Americans.”

Some highlights from Florida

  • Florida ranked 25th overall in the report.
  • Florida has experienced an increase of 27% in early deaths among adults 65-74, between 2019 and 2021.
  • Poverty levels also went up 8% for Florida seniors between 2017 and 2021, ranking now 38th nationwide.
  • The housing cost burden for Florida seniors is among the highest in the nation with the state ranking 41st.
  • A high percentage of the senior population — 86% — has access to high-speed internet, which is vital for telehealth.
  • The state also ranks second in the nation in hospice care access and use.
  • Florida ranked first nationwide in SNAP Reach.

The report showed the state’s strengths included: a high level of community support expenditures, high hospice care use, a high percentage of households with high-speed internet.
The state's challenges included: a high prevalence of multiple chronic conditions, a low home health care worker rate, and a low volunteerism rate.

Some national highlights:

  • The early death rate among older Americans increased for the second consecutive year, breaking a long-term improvement. Since 2019, deaths among adults ages 65-74 rose 22%.
  • The prevalence of frequent physical distress rose 9% from 14.5% to 15.8% between 2020 and 2021.
  • There were continued improvements in key measures of older adults’ access to care, as the number of geriatric providers and home health care workers per capita both increased.
  • The decade-long rise in drug death rates continued among older Americans. The number of drug deaths increased 43% nationally between 2016-2018 and 2019-2021. Opioid deaths were a major component of this rise.
  • In 2021, 5.6 million adults ages 65 and older lived in poverty, representing a 10% increase since 2019.
  • The number of senior centers per capita receiving federal funds from the Older Americans Act decreased 5% between 2020 and 2021 — a 23% decrease since 2019.

The healthiest states for older adults were Utah, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota and Vermont. Mississippi had the most opportunity to improve, followed by Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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