Special Report

Best States for Healthy Retirement

5. Wisconsin
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 33.0% (3rd lowest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 24.0% (21st lowest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 68.4% (21st highest)
> Life expectancy: 79.3 years (14th highest)

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among elderly Americans. A high fall rate in a given state can also indicate poor physical health among area seniors. Harmful falls in Wisconsin, however, are relatively rare. Only 23.6% of state residents 65 and older have sustained an injury from a fall in the last year, far fewer than the comparable 31.7% national rate.

Unhealthy habits are also relatively rare among the state’s elderly population. Only 6.7% of retirement age adults in the state are smokers, one the lowest elderly smoking rates of any U.S. state.

4. Minnesota
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 34.4% (6th lowest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 24.3% (23rd lowest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 72.0% (5th highest)
> Life expectancy: 80.4 years (3rd highest)

People who report frequent mental distress are more likely to exhibit certain unhealthy habits. In Minnesota, only 4.2% of adults 65 and older report frequent mental distress, the third smallest share of any state. Despite the relative scarcity of poor mental health, the smoking rate, obesity rate, and physical activity rate among those 65 and older in the state are roughly in line with the nation.

Still, in many other ways, Minnesota’s elderly are far healthier than most older Americans. Exactly 98.0% of people being treated for high blood pressure take their medication, the highest rate of any state. Additionally, about 72% of the state’s elderly get vaccinated for the flu each year, one of the highest rates of any state in the country.

3. Massachusetts
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 33.5% (5th lowest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 22.9% (13th lowest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 72.4% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy: 80.2 years (5th highest)

Of all elderly Americans, those living in Massachusetts are some of the most likely to receive preventative medical treatment and screening. The state ranks among the best in several measures of preventative care and screening, including flu vaccination rates, pneumonia vaccination rates, and colon cancer screening rates. In the Bay State, 89.9% of women 65 and older have had a mammogram in the past two years, the largest share of any state in the country.

Perhaps because the state’s oldest residents are more likely to seek preventative medical treatment, people in Massachusetts tend to live longer than most Americans. Life expectancy in the state is 80.2 years, more than a year and a half longer than the 78.5 years expectancy nationwide.

2. Vermont
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 36.8% (13th lowest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 23.4% (16th lowest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 71.5% (8th highest)
> Life expectancy: 79.5 years (12th highest)

Older Vermonters are more likely than most older Americans to lead relatively healthy lives. Not only are they are more likely to eat the recommended amount of vegetables, but also 49.3% of them eat fruit at least twice a day, the largest share of any state. The state’s elderly are also relatively active. Only 28.6% of elderly Vermonters lead completely sedentary lives, a considerably smaller share than the 31.4% of older Americans.

In addition to some good habits, many seniors in the Green Mountain State also abstain from some bad ones. The 5.8% smoking rate among retirement age adults in the state is well below the 8.3% nationwide rate.

1. Connecticut
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 32.9% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 22.0% (7th lowest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 72.4% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy: 80.4 years (2nd highest)

The elderly living in Connecticut are arguably more likely to lead long, healthy lives than those in any other state. Connecticut also has the second longest life expectancy of any state, at 80.4 years, just 0.2 years behind Washington. Also, just 32.9% of state senior citizens have a disability, compared to 37.9% of all elderly Americans.

It is likely the state’s 65 and older residents are relatively healthier because of their health habits, including taking advantage of preventative medicine. Connecticut senior citizens are more likely than their peers nationwide to get the flu vaccine, mammograms and colon screening.

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