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New report shows progress, challenges in Michigan senior health

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Michigan ranks 18th among states for the well-being of its older residents, according to a new report.
The “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report” from the United Health Foundation looked at more than 52 measures of health and wellness spanning over a decade.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer and executive vice president of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said one of the most significant improvements is more seniors can now be online.
“Eighty-five percent of seniors in our country have access to high speed internet,” Randall reported. “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.”
She noted another plus is an increase in the number of health care providers in the field of geriatric care. But across the country, the report said more older people are living in poverty, including almost one in 10 Michigan seniors.
The report said almost 15% of Michiganders age 65 and older battle depression and too many do not get enough physical activity.
Ann Coleman, 76, of Farmington Hills, leads an exercise class in her senior apartment community. She believes more activities for older people would help them, both physically and mentally.
“They don’t have visitors and just want somebody to talk to,” Coleman pointed out. “Some of them just get out of their apartment and they go sit in the lunchroom by themselves. Or somebody else comes in, they’ll talk with them, or go back to their apartments and say them four walls are ‘closing in on them.’ They need something to do.”
Randall said for the first time, the report included data on unpaid caregiving. In Michigan, almost 13% of people age 15 and older are caring for an older adult, with no financial compensation.
“The burden on those caregivers is important too,” Randall stressed. “Because one of the things we see is, they have a tendency to neglect their own health.”
The report showed addressing unpaid elder care in the U.S. will require policies and programs supporting caregivers, such as expanded tax credits.

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