A national study ranks Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation for adults aged 65 and over. "America's Health Rankings Senior Report" rated states on 34 individual measures, including physical activity levels, prescription drug coverage and flu vaccinations.
The state stood out in several key indicators — seniors here have the lowest prevalence of cognitive problems, they visit the dentist often, and they volunteer, said Dr. Reed Tuckson, senior medical advisor to the UnitedHealth Foundation, which funded the research.
Volunteering plays a major role in senior vitality, he added. "There's a much better chance to be active, to be engaged, to be alive, to feel excited, to be inspired, and therefore to have a good mental attitude."
Minnesota was ahead of the curve in moving toward community-based living for seniors and away from institutionalized nursing home care, when possible, and the report shows the payoff for those efforts, said Seth Boffeli, spokesman for AARP Minnesota.
"We saw early on that you could treat three people in the community for the same amount that it costs to put one person in nursing home," Boffeli said. Even so, the state's nursing home quality also scored high, according to the report.
Another key indicator for Minnesota was a low rate of seniors facing "food insecurity," a lack of access to sufficient and nutritious food.
"We have made real efforts to increase the number of seniors who are eligible...for the state's food assistance program to actually enroll," said state Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.
Minnesota ranked higher than Hawaii, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. The report tagged Mississippi as the least healthy state for seniors, followed by Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas.