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Report: WA ranks in top 10 for older Americans' well-being

  • Written by Eric Tegethoff

JUNE 3, 2024 - Washington News service: A new report looks at the well-being of older Americans.

The America's Health Ranking Senior Report shows a mixed bag for the living conditions of older adults. Washington ranks seventh in the report.

Susan Engels, Unit on Aging office chief for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said the state is succeeding for a number of reasons, including the expansion of its home delivered meals program during the pandemic.

"Some folks, that's their best meal of the day," Engels pointed out. "We did a lot of pivoting to get home delivered meals expanded to where anyone could access them, and it grew. We started spending three times the funding, and COVID funding came and we were able to do it."

Engels noted with funding from the pandemic ending, the state has stepped up to continue funding the program. The report also showed internet access has increased nationwide for older adults and early deaths decreased 8% between 2021 and 2022, although they did not dip below pre-pandemic levels.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer and executive vice president of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said there were other troubling signs for the well-being of older adults.

"We see more seniors living with depression and frequent mental distress," Randall reported. "We see some challenges in some economic majors like poverty and worsening housing cost burden and more seniors saying that they have food insecurity, that they're worried about getting access to food."

The report found the poverty rate increased 6% between 2021 and 2022. Food insecurity increased 8% between 2020 and 2021, rising for the first time since it peaked in 2014.