2020 Rhode Island healthy aging data report shows older population is growing and more diverse

December 2020|Press releases

Produced by researchers at UMass Boston and funded by Tufts Health Plan Foundation, report compares communities on healthy aging indicators and identifies data trends

PROVIDENCE, RI – As state and local leaders, frontline workers and residents work to contain the spread of COVID-19 during a second surge of cases, the new 2020 Rhode Island Healthy Aging Data Report released today utilizes 197 health indicators to provide a timely, comprehensive picture of the health of older adults in Rhode Island.

“This report helps us identify important patterns of health behaviors, resources, disease and disparities in the way Rhode Islanders are aging,” said Catherine Taylor, executive director at Age Friendly Rhode Island. “The key to healthy aging is to invest in community-level efforts to improve access to health care, expand services and support behaviors known to reduce the risks of disease and disability. The 2020 Rhode Island Healthy Aging Data Report can inform community-level decisions for years to come to better support the aging populations in our state.”

The 2020 Rhode Island Healthy Aging Data Report allows readers to compare 41 communities within the state on healthy aging indicators – from chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and obesity to healthy aging behaviors like diet, exercise and immunizations. Funded by Tufts Health Plan Foundation, the data was compiled and analyzed by researchers at the Gerontology Institute of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and engaged key stakeholders in Rhode Island to contextualize findings.

The data in the report is intended to catalyze and enable community leaders to prioritize needs and potential interventions that improve healthy aging in Rhode Island. Among its many insights, the report highlights:

  • Rhode Islanders are more diverse and the older population is growing. There are now 243,523 Rhode Islanders ages 60+ (23% increase from 2016). Rhode Island has the highest percentage of older people ages 85+ in New England (third highest percentage in the U.S.).
  • Deep and historic inequities plague Rhode Island. Where a resident lives and what resources they have access to directly effects their health and quality of life, particularly for communities of color and the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • The economic status of the older population is worsening, and this was true even before the pandemic. The percentage of adults age 65+ with income below the poverty line increased to 9.5% (from 8.6% in 2016); the percentage of adults age 60+ who received food benefits increased to 15% (from 11.9% in 2016); and the percentage of adults age 65+ working in the past year climbed to 21.9% (from 16.3% in 2016).

“Our research team has spent years collecting and analyzing data and speaking with community members and leaders to get an updated, accurate understanding of the way older people are aging in Rhode Island,” said Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, principal investigator, Gerontology University of Massachusetts Boston. “In response to the data, we’ve developed tools to inform communities about ways to make it easier for everyone to achieve their own, unique, optimal health.”

The 2020 Rhode Island Healthy Aging Data Report online resources include:

  • 41 individual community profiles, and an additional 20 community profiles by ZIP code for the core cities in Rhode Island
  • 194 maps listing community rates for each indicator (both ranked and alphabetized)
  • 41 community profiles with estimates of indicators with confidence intervals, and technical documentation
  • 18 interactive web maps
  • An infographic summarizing key findings

“The disparities highlighted in this report have been magnified during the pandemic,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “This report gives community leaders a road map to address challenges and make Rhode Island communities great places to grow up and grow old.”

To read the 2020 Rhode Island Healthy Aging Data Report and access the digital tools, visit HealthyAgingDataReports.org.