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Articles for Baby Boomers

New Report Reveals What Baby Boomers Can

Do Now to Avoid Future Health Challenges

The first Southern Tier baby boomers celebrate their 65th birthdays this year, and about three out of four of them and others nearing this milestone self-rate their health as good or better, even though half report having at least one chronic condition, according to a report issued today by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Upstate New Yorkers who are 60 to 65 years old also feel good about their lives, with about 95 percent reporting very high life satisfaction. That’s slightly above the 93 percent of 18- to 59-year-olds who reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their lives.

"The Facts About Turning 65 in Upstate New York" delves into health-related issues facing the oldest of the post-war baby boom generation (Americans born from 1946 through 1964). The report also highlights actions they can take to maintain or improve their health status.

“Today’s 65-year-olds can expect to live an additional 19 years, which is about five years longer than was expected for an individual of similar age in 1946, the first year of the baby boom,” said Dr. Marybeth McCall, Excellus BCBS chief medical officer. “But with aging comes a host of acute and chronic health conditions.”

Excellus BCBS found that among 60- to 65-year-old upstate New Yorkers who responded to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, 14.5 percent have been diagnosed with one or more forms of cancer, about 20 percent indicated they had cardiovascular disease or diabetes and 51.9 percent have arthritis.

“The cost of treating chronic diseases consumes 95 percent of the health expenses incurred by older adults,” continued McCall.

A look at health care expenses in New York state shows that 65- to 74-year-olds comprise 6.9 percent of the population, but their per capita health expenses represent 15 percent of the total.

“In addition to added expenses, chronic conditions can cause years of pain and suffering and functional decline that can lead to disability and loss of independence,” said McCall. She noted that despite widespread perceptions about aging and statistics that depict declining well-being as an inevitable part of it, poor health is not intrinsic to growing older.

“It can be tragic when individuals don’t recognize the fundamental link between their personal health behaviors and their risk of illness,” said McCall. “For people who make this connection, the health burdens we typically associate with age, while not entirely avoidable, can decrease substantially.”

Today’s leading causes of death among older adults often are preventable. Just three behavioral risk factors – smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity – account for more than a third of chronic disease deaths. All are directly tied to heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

“What else can today’s baby boomers do to avoid disease as they age?” asked McCall. “They can assume greater responsibility for their own health by adopting specific practices, many of which are aligned with the CDC’s Healthy People objectives for the population by the year 2020.”

Comparing Healthy People objectives to the disease prevention and preventive care behaviors reported by 60- to 65-year-old upstate New Yorkers who participated in the CDC survey reveals that:

  • 31.0 percent reported colorectal cancer screening according to current guidelines (annual fecal occult blood test), compared to the Healthy People 2020 objective of 70.5 percent.

  • 35.5 percent reported having had a pneumonia vaccine, compared to the Healthy People 2020 objectives of 60 percent for high risk 18- to 64-year-olds and 90 percent for all adults ages 65 and older.

  • 43.0 percent reported having been diagnosed with high cholesterol, compared to the Healthy People 2020 target of 13.5 percent.

  • 53.0 percent reported having been diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to the Healthy People 2020 target of 26.9 percent.

  • 59.7 reported having had the seasonal flu vaccine, compared to the Healthy People 2020 objective of 80 percent to 90 percent for low- and high-risk populations respectively.

    “These numbers show that boomers in the 60- to 65-year-old age group have many opportunities to take charge of their health as they prepare for the years ahead,” concluded McCall.

About the Author

 

View the complete report on turning 65 in upstate New York at excellusbcbs.com/factsheets.

 

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