Faculty and graduate student researchers at McCormack Graduate School’s Gerontology Institute have completed a first-of its kind, comprehensive report providing data on health aging indicators from the state’s 351 cities and towns as well as 16 neighborhoods in Boston. These profiles were created to help community residents, agencies, providers, and governments achieve a better understanding of the older residents.
The research team included Professors Elizabeth Dugan, Frank Porell, and Nina Silverstein and gerontology graduate students Chae Man Lee, Kristina Turk, Brittany Gaines, and Joo Suk Chae.
Commissioned by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative and the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum, Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report: Community Profiles provides a custom profile of nearly 100 healthy aging indicators.
In an attempt to get the most complete depiction of the situation faced by each community, the report covers a broad spectrum of issues including population composition, physical and mental health, chronic disease, nutrition/diet, access to care, service utilization, wellness and prevention, and community variables (walkability, access to resources, safety, and economic factors.)
Some of the report’s key findings include:
- Chronic disease is high among older adults. In Massachusetts, the state average for persons age 65 or older having four or more chronic conditions is 59 percent.
- Rates of depression, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias among older adults are higher in Massachusetts compared to national averages.
- Thirty-two percent of Massachusetts older adults have ever been diagnosed with diabetes.
- At 15 percent, the prevalence rate of prostate cancer among men in the state is higher than the prevalence rates for all other cancers included in this report, regardless of gender.
- In Massachusetts, 23 percent of adults age 60 and older are considered obese and only a quarter of older adults in Massachusetts eat the recommended five servings daily of fruits and vegetables.
- About two out of three adults in Massachusetts age 60 or older are getting annual flu shots and have taken the pneumonia vaccine.
Surprised by the disparities across the state, Dugan told The Boston Globe, “It doesn’t follow a neat pattern, and we don’t have a good explanation for that yet.”
In future iterations of this report, researchers will examine family caregiving, disability, asthma, and social issues like housing and volunteerism as they consider health aging.
“This report is important not only for health care providers and community public health leaders to read and digest, but also everyone with an older family member, friend, or neighbor,” said Ira A. Jackson, dean of the McCormack Graduate School. “From diet and exercise to preventive medicine and wellness measures, the researchers at McCormack Grad School’s Gerontology Institute have compiled a must-read report on health aging in Massachusetts. We all need to pay attention to their findings.”
Community profiles and interactive maps are posted on the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative website.