Healthy Living for Hawaii Seniors

Hawaii isn’t just for the young–it’s also paradise for the young at heart.

The state ranked fourth on the list of healthiest states for seniors, according to America’s Health Senior Report 2015. It’s a step backwards from last year, when Hawaii placed second. But, this year’s ranking is still a testament to the healthy lifestyle many seniors enjoy here.

United Health Foundation issued the ranking based on 35 measures of well-being and are intended as a call to action for communities. Criteria include ICU use, hip fractures, falls, premature death, and teeth extractions.

Among Hawaii’s strengths were its low prevalence of obesity, low rate of preventable hospitalizations, low hip fracture rate, low rate of premature deaths, and ample supply of geriatricians. It placed first in all those categories.

Here are some more highlights from the report:

  • In the past year, pain management decreased 37% from 59.4% to 37.2% of adults aged 65 and older with joint pain.
  • In the past year, flu vaccine coverage increased 12% from 62.7% to 69.9% of adults aged 65 and older.
  • In the past year, hospice care increased 18% from 35.6% to 41.9% of decedents aged 65 and older.
  • In the past year, ICU use increased 7% from 12.2% to 13.1% of decedents aged 65 and older.
  • In the past year, poor mental health days increased 18% from 1.7 to 2.0 days in previous 30.

On the other hand, more seniors in Hawaii reported joint pain than any other state, more elderly are underweight here, and more end up dying in the hospital rather than at home.

Seniors who live in Hawaii live healthy lives, overall.

While hospice care is rarer in Hawaii than nationally, it’s becoming more popular. About 42 percent of elderly who died in 2014 in Hawaii used hospice care, which is usually provided at home, up from 36 percent the year before. The national average is 51 percent.

Vermont was ranked as the healthiest state for seniors, followed by New Hampshire and Minnesota. Louisiana was the least healthy, according to the report.

“With America’s senior population poised to double by 2050, we must continue to invest in programs and solutions that address our seniors’ health needs and help them live the best lives they possibly can,” said Ron Fujimoto, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan for Hawaii.

In 2050 adults aged 65 and older are projected to equal 83.7 million, almost double the estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012. And, between 2012 and 2050, the US population’s projected growth will swell from 314 million to 400 million—a 27% increase.

Hawaii seniors have a low rate of preventable hospitalizations.

By 2030 it is projected that more than 20% of the population will be aged 65 and older, up from 13% in 2010 and 9.8% in 1970.

This senior surge threatens to swamp the health care system at state and national levels. Adults aged 65 and older are the largest consumers of health care because aging carries with it the need for more frequent care. The projected growth of the senior population in the United States will pose challenges to policymakers, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, not to mention the effect it will have on families, businesses, and health care providers.

Over the next 15 years, Hawaii is expected to see a 45 % increase in its number of seniors. It ranks 29th in the nation for expected senior population increase.

What’s the take-away? Hawaii seniors live the good life, but, even in paradise, there’s room for improvement.




Posted by: Bruce Fisher