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Texas Ranks 39th in National Survey of Senior Health

Texas and its capitol city are increasingly touted as great retirement destinations. But according to a recent study, the state ranks 48th in money spent on senior healthcare and 39th overall, in a national survey by United Health Foundation.

The study from the health care giant found that 820,000 Texas seniors were physically inactive, which led to nearly 20 percent of seniors spending at least a week in intensive care in the final six months of their lives.

There were upsides, however. Texas maintains a healthy amount of hospice care and healthcare workers and a low prevalence of underweight seniors. But Melinda Marble of Hospice Austin says that a high rate of poverty among seniors and the lack of community involvement in seniors’ lives are both obstacles for the elderly in Texas.

“Seniors living in poverty don’t have access to medical care,” Marble says. “And you can’t really get out and get to a doctor appointment if you’re inactive and there’s not any community service to get you to these doctor’s appointments.”

The study also notes that 18 percent of seniors experience food insecurity, which Thad Rosenfeld of Meals on Wheels says is an increasing problem. He says the state’s low spending per senior and a comparatively high 11 percent poverty rate among seniors will be problematic as the Austin area, and Texas in general, expands. But, while the demand for services may be expanding, non-profits like Meals on Wheels have struggled in light of the federal funding cuts known as the sequester.

“As there is an increase in demand for our services, it’s tougher and tougher to get funding,” Rosenfeld  says, which has caused cutbacks in deliveries and a waiting list that can swell to as many as 300 seniors.

United Health Services determined the results using monthly telephone surveys that collect information on risk factors, health care availability and access to primary care on a state-by-state basis.

According to the study, Texas' ranking bodes poorly for the state going forward, but Joyce Lauck, executive director of AGE of Central Texas says that Austin is out ahead of the “silver tsunami," citing theMayor's Task Force on Aging as an indicator that Austin bucks the statewide trend.

"Everybody knows that Austin's a great place to retire," Lauck says. "But we need to make it a great place to grow old."

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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