Friday, June 21, 2024

Report: Virginia Seniors’ Physical, Behavioral Health Declines

A new report found “excessive drinking” is up among Virginia seniors, coming in at 7.4% of the older population, a bit lower than the national average of 7.7%. (Adobe Stock)

MINNEAPOLIS — A new report showed Virginia’s older residents face worsening physical and behavioral health and looks at the possible reasons.

The America’s Health Rankings Senior Report finds Virginia has seen sweeping declines in behavioral health and health outcomes of its older population. It said 38% more seniors in the Commonwealth are in “frequent mental distress,” which mirrors a national trend.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer and executive vice president of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said economic factors are also worsening and may be at least partly to blame.

“We see some challenges in some economic measures like poverty, in worsening housing cost burden,” Randall outlined. “More seniors saying that they have food insecurity, that they’re worried about getting access to food.”

The report also showed some bright spots, including a national increase in senior health care providers. Virginia also has seen an increase in home health care workers. Randall noted unpaid family caregivers boost the state’s services but need support.

In 2023, the General Assembly considered a bill to establish a tax credit of up to $1,000 for eligible family caregiving expenses, but it failed in committee.

The report found Virginia has improved the quality of care for seniors with increases in cancer screening and flu and pneumonia vaccinations for people 65 and older. Randall emphasized a national increase in high-speed internet access also benefits people in the senior age group.

“Eighty-five percent of seniors in our country have access to high-speed internet,” Randall noted. “This is significant because it helps us connect with our family and our friends. It helps us connect with our health care providers, whenever we need to see a doctor or access care remotely.”

But as high-speed internet use increases, so do internet crimes. The report showed the percentage of online scams reported by Virginians was slightly higher than the national average of almost 11%.

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