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County's senior population growing
Local seniors have a higher rate of falling than others statewide
senior citizen
The rate of serious non-fatal falls in seniors living in Stanislaus County occur at a rate 18 to 20 percent above the rest of California, leading to increased hospital emergency room visits and hospitalizations. - photo by Contributed

 A report issued last week by the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency Public Health (HSA/PH) Division has found that seniors – those 60 and older – make up 17 percent of the census and those numbers have steadily increased by over 1,700 people every year since 2007.

The report showed that in 2014, the county was home to 531,997 residents with 90,265 people aged 60 and older.  Of those seniors, 54.1 percent are female, compared to the 50.5 percent female population of the county’s general population. The population of local seniors has been steadily increasing by over 1,700 people every year.

About a quarter of the seniors in Stanislaus County struggle financially with annual income at or below 150 percent of the poverty level, such as $15,730 per year for a family of two.

Stanislaus County seniors tend to have a higher disability rate at 39 percent, compared to the state rate of 31 percent and the collective national rate of 32 percent.

The study notes that the top causes for death of Stanislaus County seniors are heart disease (29 percent) and cancer (23 percent), which closely matches the nationwide rate, followed by chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes.

However, falls remain a serious problem for seniors. The rate of serious non-fatal falls in seniors living in the county occur at a rate 18 to 20 percent above the rest of California, leading to increased hospital emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

“Addressing concerns over falls that can result in the loss of independence or death is the purpose of the Healthy Aging Association, one of our provider agencies,” says Margie Palomino, Director of Aging and Veteran’s Services.

Programs designed to reduce seniors’ falls include “A Matter of Balance,” “Young at Heart” fall prevention classes, and the Fall Prevention Resource Guide. The Area Agency on Aging and the Healthy Aging Association sponsor the Annual Healthy Aging and Fall Prevention Summit at the Modesto Centre Plaza. This year’s event will be Friday, Oct. 19 and will include multiple opportunities to gain information about healthy lifestyles and fall prevention.

With age can come an assortment of ailments, elevating concerns surrounding health conditions and health care to a greater importance among seniors. The most commonly reported conditions for seniors and all adults were high blood pressure (seniors 54.5 percent to general population adults of 25.4 percent), and high cholesterol (seniors 48 percent, general population adults 26.8 percent). Seniors reported more diagnoses than the overall adult population, with the exception of mental health disorders.

From 2013 to 2015, an average 2,975 seniors died each year in Stanislaus County.

The report indicated that most Stanislaus County seniors are out of shape, with only 23 percent at their appropriate weight, 39 percent being overweight and 35 percent classified as obese. Only three percent are underweight.

The annual report focuses on the health and factors that influence health for seniors 60 and older in Stanislaus County. The report includes sections on demographics, families and household composition, economics and employment, health care, and physical and mental well-being.

The report found that more years of schooling is associated with better physical functioning and perceived health. While the county is home to several institutions of higher learning such as California State University Stanislaus, Brandman University, and University of Phoenix, the education levels for the senior population are markedly less than those in the state and country. According to the 2015 American Community Survey one-year estimate, only 70 percent of Stanislaus County seniors 65 and older have at least a high school degree compared to almost 80 percent of California seniors and over 82 percent of U.S. seniors. Similarly, only 16.5 percent of Stanislaus seniors report having a bachelor’s degree or higher education, compared with 30.1 percent of California seniors and 25.8 percent of U.S. seniors. Likely, this phenomenon is due in part to the availability of careers in the industrial and agricultural fields in Stanislaus County that do not require high levels of formal education.

Almost 70 percent of seniors living in Stanislaus County have a spouse or partner in their lives. Almost a quarter, however, have lost a spouse either through death, divorce, or separation, while 6.1 percent are are single and have never been married.

In 2014, 10.3 percent of Stanislaus County’s seniors 60 and older were living with their grandchildren. Of those living with their grandchildren, 2.3 percent of all seniors were responsible for the grandchildren.

While many seniors choose to retire for personal or health reasons, many more do not have the financial autonomy to stop working entirely. A 2013 survey revealed that 41.4 percent of Stanislaus County seniors 60 and older are retired, 32.9 percent work full time and 14.2 percent work part time. Additionally, 13.3 percent reported being self-employed, and over two percent reported seasonal employment.

The report suggests that seniors have many concerns about their communities. Primarily, 78.1 percent are very concerned with crime and 65.8 percent over neighborhood safety. More than half of seniors also reported being very concerned with alcohol and drugs (64.0%), jobs that pay enough to support a family (58.6%), quality of schools (52.4%), and homelessness (51%). While those were the same categories of heightened concern among the general population, seniors have more concern about crime and alcohol and drugs. The total population has more concern about jobs that pay enough to support a family, quality of schools, and quality/number of parks in the area. Less than one third of seniors or adults were very concerned with asthma and transportation access.

For more information or to find a class near you, please contact the Healthy Aging Association at 525-4670 or visit their website at: http://www.healthyagingassociation.org/.

The Summit admission and health screenings are free, open to the public, and geared towards anyone over the age of 50. For more information about the Area Agency on Aging, call 558-8698 or visit the website, www.agingservices.info. The full 2017 Senior Health Report can be accessed at http://www.schsa.org/PublicHealth/pdf/dataPublications/senior-health-report.pdf.