By: Dr. Joel Caschette, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement Plans of Florida
Housing Cost Burden Among Highest in the Nation
The pandemic affected everyone in unprecedented ways, and not everyone was impacted equally. Social connections and support systems were heavily impacted, especially those of America’s older adults. The social relationships that are fostered by an active community decreased, and challenges for seniors’ health rose.
The United Health Foundation’s 11th America’s Health Rankings Senior Report highlights the many challenges, and strengths, in the health of individuals 60 and over across the country. The report includes 52 health measures rom 22 sources.
Florida in particular 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. Moreover, the housing cost burden for Florida seniors is among the highest in the nation with the state ranking 41st.
The report also reflects some strengths of the Sunshine State. For example, a high percentage of the senior population – 86% – has access to high-speed internet, which is instrumental for Telehealth. Conversely, the state ranks No. 2 in the nation in hospice care access and use. It’s also worth mentioning that Florida ranked No. 1 nationwide in SNAP Reach.
On the national level, senior centers, which are helpful in increasing social connectivity and promoting community participation, saw a decrease in funding. The report also shows that senior centers receiving funding from the Older Americans Act (OAA) decreased nationally by 5% between 2020 and 2021 and 23% since 2019. While this was likely due to pandemic-related closures, we encourage communities to invest in these important connective locations again now that it is safer to meet in person.
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 negative implications of social isolation are severe.
Physical inactivity, volunteerism, frequent physical distress, and early deaths all worsened on a national level for America’s older adults. All these factors contribute to or result in a decline in social connectedness, and these key findings cannot be ignored.
These concerning numbers should serve as a wake-up call to focus more on the mental and physical well-being of seniors everywhere. 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.