An Aging Arizona – a $99 Billion Crisis In The Making

| June 27, 2011

Arizona has one of the fastest growing senior populations – and related health care cost projections – in the nation. The Arizona Department of Health Services 2010 Report On Aging in Arizona states that the costs associated with chronic disease management for this growing population will top $99 billion dollars by 2023. The same report goes on to say, one quarter of those costs, nearly $26 billion, can be avoided through lifestyle changes and better health education.

From a financial perspective, our decisions about senior care are a big deal. According to the Arizona State Plan on Aging, assisting a frail elder to remain independent through the Independent Living Support Services program costs us a little over $2000 a year while the average costs of a nursing home is over $61,000. The same report details the results of the State’s cuts in services. Let me quote:

Unfortunately, for many elders, they have no options except institutional care – even if it is premature and not their choice – because the home care services they rely on to maintain their dignity and independenceĀ in later life are steadily disappearing.

Premature – against their wishes – expensive. The consequences of our budget decisions are critical to seniors and taxpayers alike.

The more we learn about the processes of aging the more we understand that health literacy has an enormous impact on how well we age. The seminal book on the subject is Successful Aging by Dr. John Rowe and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D. The book, based on the MacArthur Foundation Study, explains why lifestyle choices affect health and quality of life more than heredity when it comes to aging. Lifestyles that include exercise, healthy diets, mental stimulation, and meaningful social engagement are effective at preventing or delaying the onset of diseases associated with aging . To maintain independence is to remain as healthy and mentally acute as possible. The challenge is to improve literacy to the extent that aging boomers have the tools to intelligently make health care choices and deal with chronic diseases while maintaining independence.

We will take a look at the area agencies responsible for these services, where the money comes from and what happens with it next.

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Category: Aging, News & Advocacy

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