By Beth Dugan, PhD, Associate Professor of Gerontology, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston
I was proud and excited to present the work that the research team at the Gerontology Institute of the University of Massachusetts Boston completed this year. The 2015 Healthy Aging Data Report was released at the Building Age-Friendly Communities Summit, which was convened by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation in partnership with The Boston Foundation.
The Summit was an inspiring event. It is encouraging to see so many people gathered to think about making Massachusetts a leader in healthy aging and in building age-friendly communities. Personally, I find we get some of the best ideas from attendee feedback on how to improve the data reports or to make them even more useful.
The feedback on the 2014 Community Profiles and our desire to dig deeper into the data helped shape our data analyses and reporting for 2015. This year, we have three main stories to tell:
- First, we added 39 new indicators to each community profile – presenting more in-depth information about population characteristics, chronic disease, safety, civic engagement, and the financial status of community residents. There is no other state in the nation with such rich data on older adults reported at the local level to help guide policy and planning.
- Second, our analyses identified racial and ethnic disparities in healthy aging. Compared to older white men, older black and Hispanic men have higher rates of major chronic diseases and lower rates of engaging in healthy behaviors. Similarly, compared to older white women, older black and Hispanic women have higher rates of most heart disease indicators and lower rates of engaging in healthy behaviors.
- Third, after creating a strong measure of older adult population health we found some interesting differences. A number of communities had observed health that was quite a bit different than what might be expected. Those communities that are better than expected seem worthy of further study so we can learn what is working right for the older adults who live there.
What are your thoughts on the 2015 Healthy Aging Data Report? Is there anything surprising to you? Did you find anything especially useful? What do you plan to do with this information? Share in the comments below!