Helping Older Adults Stay Strong and Independent

Why we care…

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The population of older adults in the United States is increasing steadily, and in northern New England, the increase significantly outpaces other regions’ growth. In the 20th century, the “three-legged stool” of pensions, savings, and Social Security helped to sustain older adults after retirement. In the latter part of the 20th century—and certainly today—pensions have become a rare benefit and studies show that as adults move toward retirement, most have saved $50,000 or less. At the same time, the costs of long-term care have become almost prohibitive, approaching $100,000 annually for nursing home care. In New Hampshire, at least 50% of elders who require nursing home care end up on Medicaid. Public funding for many supportive programs for older adults has been cut at both state and federal levels. We cannot assume that families are readily available to take care of their elders. In New England, affiliation with faith communities is lower than in other regions of the country.

Grafton County has one of the highest proportions of older adults in a state and region that are experiencing dramatic growth of the older population. One in three individuals in Grafton County will be over age 60 by 2030. A housing study conducted by the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission projects that 48% of heads of households in the immediate region will be 65 or over by 2030. In addition, Grafton County has one of the highest levels of older adults living on low to moderate incomes. Data from the National Council on Aging indicate that 41.3% of Grafton County’s older adults live on incomes of $2,000 per month or less.

Preventing falls among older adults is one approach to helping people maintain their strength and independence. A recent review of data on older adult falls in the Upper Valley revealed that our region has a higher rate of falls related deaths than the rest of NH.  While there are effective programs in place to reduce fall risk, we know more needs to be done to connect older adults with these programs in their communities. This is one example of work the PHC will take on during 2016.

Public Health Council Goals for Helping Older Adults Stay Strong and Independent

  1. Increase access to preventive care (e.g., dental care, cancer and other health screening, vaccines).
  2. Reduce older adult falls.
  3. Increase supports for aging in community, including social and emotional supports, recreation, transportation assistance, and more.

Other resources…

Aging Resource Center at Dartmouth

Grafton County Senior Citizens Council

Upper Valley Community Nursing Project

NH Endowment for Health: Elder Health Priority

Vermont State Plan on Aging

Programs…

In 2015, the PHC received funding from the NH Division of Public Health Services to increase access to effective falls prevention programs in the Upper Valley. One product of this work was a data brief examining the issue in our region. We also partnered with the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council to provide a Matter of Balance class in Lebanon. Due to additional funding awarded to the Dartmouth Centers for Aging, falls prevention programs as now available in many Upper Valley communities.

PHC-Data-Brief-Falls-Sep-2015-400-520Older Adult Falls Data Brief (PDF file)

How Do Falls Affect Our Region

Prepared by the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley