Wyoming Seniors Don’t Feel Much Better Off Than Younger Generations. But That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing.

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Delaware, by comparison, boasts the biggest senior advantage in well-being, according to a new well-being index.

Seniors have greater well-being than younger populations in every U.S. state and the state where it’s best to be a resident age 55 and higher is one you might expect: Hawaii.

Those in their golden years tend to be more satisfied with their standard of living and financial security, have better health care insurance and providers, eat healthier and smoke less, according to the first-ever Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

State and local officials can use such measures to offer services improving life expectancy, health care use, disease, employment, absenteeism and obesity rates—particularly where well-being advantages are slim for seniors.

“The challenge today for families and society is how to live longer, better with the highest state of well-being,” MIT AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin said in a statement. “Understanding our aging population, including Baby Boomers, the largest generation in our nation’s history, will be critical as we design policies and interventions to help older Americans thrive in all aspects of their lives.”

Delaware, Oregon, Iowa and New Hampshire’s seniors have the biggest well-being advantages over their states’ general populations—the First State seeing the highest 3.1 differential between older residents’ 64.2 well-being score and the overall population’s score of 61.1. The well-being scale is from 0 to 100.

More interesting are the states where differences in well-being scores are smallest:

In these states, seniors are about as satisfied as younger generations with their purpose, social lives, finances, community, and physical health—the five elements of Gallup’s index used to create a composite picture of the aging population.

Conceivably, there’s the greatest room for improvement of older Americans’ quality of life in states like Wyoming, but don’t confuse them all for states where well-being as a whole lags behind the rest of the country—West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma—despite significant overlap.

“The trajectory of well-being for older adults is interesting because we do see a decline in well-being when people reach their late forties and early fifties, but then a significant increase across all five elements after that,” Research Director Dan Witters said in the announcement. “From previous research, we know that higher well-being correlates with lower healthcare costs and increased productivity. Maintaining high well-being for older Americans will be especially important to employers as our country’s workforce ages and more individuals delay retirement.”

Among seniors, 52 percent reported they were financially thriving compared to 32 percent of Americans under age 55, according to the Gallup-Healthways report, but the one area where youth has them beat is exercise.

Incidences of heart attack are higher after age 55, making targeted programs keeping seniors active important state and local offerings.

“There are proven and effective interventions that combine social and physical activities to keep people healthy, active and productive as they age,” said Joy Powell, Healthways Senior Solutions market president, in a statement. “Our research shows that older Americans who are thriving in well-being exercise far more, have less depression, and have lower rates of obesity and chronic illness.”

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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