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Report: MN Ranks High for Senior Well-Being, But Concerns Emerge

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022   

Minnesota is among the top five states in a new report measuring a range of well-being factors for older populations, but some concerning trends playing out nationally are surfacing in this region.

United Health Foundation is out with its America's Health Rankings Senior Report. The findings show a decadelong progress in boosting flu vaccinations and the percentage of those reporting good to great health.

However, there is also a more-than 100% increase in drug deaths, and a 13% increase in suicides among those 65 and older.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, said the figures are very concerning.

"A lot of people may think that seniors are not part of the problem that we're seeing with mental health and drug overdoses and suicides," Randall pointed out. "But in fact, with the drug deaths, the seniors were one of the groups that had the highest rate of increase."

Minnesota ranked third overall in the report, with the authors noting a low prevalence of multiple
chronic conditions for seniors around the state. But Minnesota did see a nearly 200% increase in drug deaths, and a nearly 30% increase in obesity. The report also noted racial disparities are persistent in a number of the findings.

Another red flag in Minnesota's summary was a lack of investment in community support initiatives.

Deb Taylor, chief executive officer of Senior Community Services, which primarily focuses on helping older Minnesotans stay in their homes, said the trend is worrisome because the state's senior population is getting bigger.

"It's really surprising to me that the need is growing, we know the numbers, but the funding and support isn't there," Taylor observed.

For her group's efforts, Taylor emphasized if they see more challenges in helping seniors live independently, it eventually puts more pressure on health outcomes. Through state and federal efforts, there has been a larger push to boost access to technology, but Taylor worries certain programs will fade, and many seniors will still be left behind, leaving them feeling isolated.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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