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Choosing Assisted Living in a Healthy County
Learn the Health of Your State

When searching for a healthy senior lifestyle, keep in mind predictors like nutrition, diet, fitness, healthcare, safety, social connections, activities, and independence. These are the most common.

A leading factor affecting healthy senior lifestyles is the environment and because of its indirect effects, it's ignored. Like all people, seniors interact with the environment regularly, and it largely plays on their quality of life, the number of years they're healthy, or not healthy. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines an environment, as it relates to health: the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related behaviors.

Our environment prevents or controls disease, injury, and disability. Though we live in the same neighborhood, how we create our lifestyle, depends on the community.

Older adults live longer but as America ages, we are in poorer health. A study by Association of State and Territorial Health Officials along with support from the United Health Foundation found key points that measure seniors' lifestyles, social supports, environment, clinical care and health care outcomes.

If you're a healthy senior in search of an assisted living community, choose the environment wisely. The following information guides you to selecting a state, city, and county for good health.

Learn the Health of Your State

State Health Rankings
State Health Rankings

The study, America's Health Rankings formed a comprehensive view of senior health that reflects the unique challenges of each state. Based on a rigorous review of 34 measures, the 2013 America's Health Rankings Senior Report finds Minnesota is the leading state for senior health and Mississippi ranks last.

America's Health Rankings used three primary themes:

  • Inform state health priorities
  • Influence state policies
  • Transform state health systems

The report compares the health of all 50 states to each other using 34 measures of health ranging from smoking and obesity to ICU usage.

Physical Inactivity

Since the body declines as it ages, maintaining muscle mass plays a significant role in slowing the process. Regular exercise helps build muscle mass.

Physical inactivity has adverse effects on health and increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and premature death. Regular physical activity helps prevent and help with managing chronic health diseases.

By State: The percentage of a population, age 65 and older, report doing no physical activity or exercise like running, calisthenics, weight lifting, golf, gardening, and walking in the last 30 days.

AZ, CA, CO, OR, WA: 20 to 25%

AK, ME, MD, MI, MN, NC, NH, NM, NV, UT: 24 to 29%

CT, DE, FL, IA, ID, IL, KS, MA, MT, NE, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX: 28 to 33%

AL, AR, GA, IN, KY, MO, ND, NJ, OK, RI, SD, VA, WI, WY: 32 to 38%

LA, MS, TN, WV: 37 to 42%

Physical inactivity per state, ranging from 20.5 percent in Colorado to more than 41.0 percent in West Virginia and Tennessee. Nationally, adults aged 65 and older who are physically inactive is 30.3 percent.

Obesity

Obesity or overweight affects close to thirty-four percent of seniors. Obesity increases health risks like diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. It ca cause early death. Losing weight decreases the risks of health problems and can help with managing chronic health issues.

How to measure obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher. Obesity among adults aged 65 and older varies from 16.9 percent in Hawaii to more than 29.0 percent in Illinois, Iowa, Alaska, and Michigan. Nationally, adults aged 65 and older who are obese is 25.3 percent. (Source: America's Health Rankings)

By State: The percentage of a population, age 65 and older, report obesity.

HI, NV: 16.9 to 19.4%

CA, CO, MT, NM, WY: 19.5 to 21.9 %

AZ, CT, FL, ID, ND, MA, MN, RI, SD, VT: 22 to 24.5%

AR, GA, IN, KS, KY, MO, MD, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OK, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI, UT: 24.6 to 27%

AK, AL, DE, IA, IL, LA, MS, MI, NE, OH, PA, WV: 27 to 29.5%

Low Care

The America's Health Rankings found that nursing residents with no need for assistance with mobility, transferring, using the toilet, and eating had low care concerns.

The national average of low-care nursing home residents is 12.2 percent and ranges from a minimum of 1.1 percent of nursing home residents in Maine to a high of 26.7 percent in Illinois.

Community-based services such as Meals on Wheels, visiting home health aides, transportation programs, and technology-delivered healthcare programs allow seniors to age in place.

By State: The percentage of residents in all facilities in the state on the first Thursday in April who was low care.

HI, OR, ME, NC, PA, SC, UT, VT, WA: 1 to 7%

AZ, CA, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, MA, MD, MI, NY, OH, TN, VA, WI, WV, WY: 6 to 12%

AK, AL, CO, CT, DE, IA, MN, MS, MT, ND, NE, NH, NM, NJ, SD, TX: 11 to 17%

AR, KS, MO, RI, WY: 16 to 22%

IL, LA, OK: 21 to 27%

Food Insecurity

Percentage of seniors over 60 who have less access to affordable and nutritious food to sustain a healthy life.

The proportion of adults with food insecurities range from 5.5 percent in North Dakota to a high of more than 21.0 percent in New Mexico and Mississippi. The national average of marginally food insecure seniors is 13.6 percent of adults aged 60 and older.

By State: The percentage of seniors living with food insecurity.

DE, ID, MN, NE, ND: 5 to 9%

CO, CT, IA, IN, MA, NH, SD, VA, VT, WI: 8 to 12%

AK, AZ, HI, IL, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MT, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, WA, WV, WY: 11 to 16%

AL, GA, FL, CA, NV, SC, TN, TX: 15 to 19%

AR, MS, NM: 18 to 22%

Diabetes

An outcome of an unhealthy lifestyle that increases the risk of developing other diseases and complications like heart disease, eye complications, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot damage and more.

Diabetes ranges from 13.0 percent in West Virginia to 7.0 percent in Alaska. The national median of adults with diabetes is 9.7 percent.

By State: The percentage of adults who've been told by a health professional that they have diabetes, excluding pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes.

No states: 2.7 to 4.8%

No states: 4.9 to 6.9%

AK, CO, HI, ID, MA, MN, MT, NE, ND, NV, SD, UT, VT, WI, WA: 7.0 to 9.0%

AZ, CA, CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD, ME, MI, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, TX, VA, WY: 9.1 to 11.1%

AR, AL, FL, LA, MS, OK, OH, SC, TN, WV: 11.2 to 13.2%

Learn the Health of Your County and Community

The following data provided by County Health Rankings, shows the health factors differ by age, gender, race, ethnicity and ZIP code. Understanding how health outcomes and factor differ by these subgroups helps understand what interventions improve the health of the entire community.

The data gives you a clear review of a city and county's healthy status. You'll know before that moving, e.g., from California to Alabama is like moving from Guernsey to Angola, as far as life expectancy goes.

But new reports shows just how much variation in life quality there is within each state, if you look at the most and least-healthy counties. In Kentucky, for instance, the percentage of children living in poverty ranges from 8, in Oldham county near Louisville, to 57 percent in nearby Owlsey county, where the local farming and mining economies have dried up.

Read through the reports below to find where you'll find the most walkable cities, which have the least health threats, and health rankings of each county. Get smart before packing up to move to the least desirable area, in terms of longevity.

County Level

Feeding America Map the Meal Gap

Data on Heart Disease & stroke provided by CDC.

Health Map on disease monitoring and public health threats.

How Walkable is Your Community

See more:

County Health Rankings - Digging Deeper

County Health Rankings data by State

Find Your County Health Rankings

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.