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