First-of-its-Kind Report Reveals Individual Community Strengths and Challenges to Inform Targeted Interventions
BRISTOL, CT – The first-ever Connecticut Healthy Aging Data Report was released today, a compilation of data from almost 200 indicators of health. It is the first-of-its-kind to include 181 comprehensive community profiles: one for each of the state’s 169 cities and towns, plus 12 neighborhoods in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford. Connecticut is one of only four states in the nation to have such extensive data available for healthy aging. From the distribution of disease and disability to the impact of gender on health disparities to data on community engagement, housing and transportation, the report is a valuable guide for community leaders, agencies, planners, and residents to understand the older people living in their cities and towns.
The report is a foundation for advocates, including the CT Age Well Collaborative, a newly formed group of public, private and philanthropic aging and community leaders with the vision of an Age-Friendly Connecticut: a great place to grow up and grow old. Funded by Tufts Health Plan Foundation, the research was conducted by the Gerontology Institute at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, this global health crisis highlighted inequities in our own communities and inspired innovation and upstream structural solutions,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “The pandemic mobilized residents of all ages to come together and support one another. There is more to be done to address these challenges and seize the opportunities for positive change for years to come.”
This 2021 Connecticut Healthy Aging Data Report is an important resource to help shape policy, improve our programs and services, as well as work collectively to engage and act.
Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, principal investigator and associate professor at the Gerontology Institute, said, “the Connecticut results show there are great disparities for those living in Connecticut.” “People are having different experiences depending on where you live.“
“Connecticut is on a clear path for creating an age-friendly state,“ said Commissioner Amy Porter, Department of Aging and Disability Services. “With this report and working closely with the CT Age Well Collaborative, we are set to prioritize needs, address inequities and build up our communities to be healthy places to live, work and grow old.“
The report is being released at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Association of Senior Center Personnel (CASCP), a celebration of the importance of Senior Centers across the state in improving the wellbeing of older adults before and, especially during the pandemic and the recent passage of PA-21-7, An Act Concerning Senior Centers. “The Senior Center Act recognizes the role of senior centers and begins to build a framework for their development. Along with the Healthy Aging Data Report and the work of the CT Age Well Collaborative, it will help to ensure all older adults can age with dignity in our communities,“ said Dianne Stone, CASCP President.
“Towns and cities can use the resources in the report to inform decisions about economic development, public health, housing and transportation,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “The data will help make their communities work for older people, and when that’s true, the communities will work for younger people, too.”
“We are all aging,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for Corporate Citizenship at Tufts Health Plan. “These data will help us age well as community leaders use the report to understand gaps and opportunities to improve the quality of life for all residents.”
Significant Income Disparities
There are sizable disparities in the financial security of Connecticut’s older adults. At one end of the economic spectrum, 24% of the state’s 65+ households have annual incomes above $100,000, and 25% of the 65+ households have annual incomes above $100,000. At the other extreme, 7% of older people (41,130) live below the poverty level, and 11% rely on supplemental nutrition assistance for food.
High Burden of Chronic Disease
Sixty-two percent of people age 65+ have been diagnosed with four or more chronic conditions, a high burden of comorbidity that underscores the need for preventative health interventions. The impact of chronic disease on older adults goes beyond those who personally suffer from a medical condition; more than 1 in 5 older adults (22%) age 60+ were caregivers of a family member or friend in the last month. By working to create healthy, age-friendly communities we can reduce the burden of disease, and allow people to live healthier, longer, and more meaningful lives.
The Toll of Social Isolation
Research suggests that loneliness and social isolation are bad for your health, possibly as bad as the impact of smoking. Approximately 28% of people in Connecticut live alone, and in 21 communities the rate was more than 33%. Statewide 78% of people 60+ reported having had 15 or more days with poor mental health in the last month. Rates in Orange and West Haven were nearly double the state rate (13%).
Disparities in health and housing in Connecticut are pronounced. Although most people 65+ in Connecticut own their own home (77%), the rate ranges from only 37% in Hartford to 100% in Union. Approximately 17% of 60+ individuals said they were stressed about paying their mortgage in the last month. Owning a home is a pathway to building wealth, yet there are vast differences in who can take advantage of that option in Connecticut.
Nutrition and Physical Health
Statewide, only 20% of adults 60+ report eating five or more fruits and vegetables per day. Nine percent of people 60+ were stressed about buying food. Nearly one in four were diagnosed with obesity and a similar percentage reported having lost six or more teeth. The statewide rate for having high cholesterol was 77%. Finally, getting around on one’s two feet is difficult for 19% of people 65+…this has implications for Connecticut residents’ ability to get food and sufficient exercise, to socialize, and to live independently.
Connecticut is one of only four states in the nation to have such extensive data available for healthy aging, making it, along with Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, emerging leaders in creating Age-Friendly communities.
What is an age-friendly community?
An age-friendly community offers affordable, accessible, and diverse housing and transportation options and public buildings and spaces; supportive community features and services; and vibrancy and opportunities for community engagement. They engage residents in civic and social life, and allow people to remain in their homes and communities. Done well, they enhance the quality of life for all residents, create tremendous economic values in towns and cities, promote healthy living and support environmental sustainability.
About the CT Age Well Collaborative
The Connecticut Age Well Collaborative is a new group of public, private and philanthropic aging and community leaders with the vision of an Age-Friendly Connecticut: a great place to grow up and grow old. The Collaborative is currently preparing an analysis of aging in the state, Connecticut’s history of livable community work coupled with priorities and best practices. Join us by visiting ctagewellcollaborative.org
About Connecticut Community Care
Connecticut Community Care (est. 1980), a statewide care management organization, helps more than 15,000 people all ages, abilities and incomes to receive the care they need at home, in their own communities, and is dedicated to partnering with individuals, families, community and corporate supporters to offer health and wellness programs, corporate and community education initiatives. Connecticut Community Care provides strategic guidance and operational support to the CT Age Well Collaborative. Visit ctcommunitycare.org or follow us on Facebook and YouTube.
About Tufts Health Plan Foundation
Established in 2008, Tufts Health Plan Foundation supports the health and wellness of the diverse communities we serve. The Foundation has given nearly $50 million to nonprofits in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Our focus is healthy living with an emphasis on older people and moving communities toward age-friendly policies and practices that are relevant, focus on older adults and include them in community solutions. In 2021, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan combined. Moving forward, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation and Tufts Health Plan Foundation[s] will work as one to benefit community.
Visit HealthyAgingDataReports.org to learn more.