Kentucky is near the bottom in a new ranking of senior well-being, and Indiana doesn’t fare much better in the December report.
A recent story by Courier-Journal reporter Darla Carter stated that the commonwealth is 49th, behind rock-bottom West Virginia, in the 2015 State Well-Being Rankings for Older Americans. Indiana joins Kentucky in the bottom five with a ranking of 46 among the 50 states.
The analysis, which focuses on people ages 55 and older, takes into consideration several factors, including being in good health, having supportive relationships, liking where you live and having enough money to do what you want.
For the second year in a row, Hawaii was the state with the best well-being, with a total well-being index score of 67, compared with Kentucky’s 61.2 and Indiana’s 62.7, according to the report, which is part of the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series. The index is calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest possible well-being.
“I would love for Kentucky to do better,” said James Kimbrough, president of AARP Kentucky.
Both Kentucky and Indiana’s rankings were unchanged from the previous year.
The data for the report came from interviews conducted in 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. Nearly 116,000 older Americans participated.
In terms of the specific categories, Kentucky ranked 49th in “physical,” which relates to having good health and enough energy to get things done daily. It ranked 46th in the social category, which relates to having supportive relationships and love in your life.
Kentucky ranked 41st in the financial category, which relates to managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security. The commonwealth was 40th in “community,” which relates to liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.
Kimbrough wasn’t surprised by the findings. He said it’s common for Kentucky seniors to feel that “where we live’s pretty good,” but “not so much with either issues about our personal health or about our financial health,” noting that many seniors are dependent on social security for their post-retirement income.
Kimbrough, a former chief planner for the state health department, said there have been discussions in Kentucky since the 70s about the state not measuring up to others in the country when it comes to health. The problem stems partly from culturally rooted eating habits and lack of physical activity, he said.
“The healthiest states in the country have a culture of encouraging people to exercise, to be outdoors, to not sit in front of the TVs,” he said, noting that he’d like to see Gov. Matt Bevin and members of the legislature be role models for more physical activity.
“I think it would be really useful to see Gov. Bevin out walking daily and let it be known that he’s walking around Frankfort daily or running mini-marathons, things like that,” he said. Legislators could do the same in their towns.
“Staying healthy should be bipartisan,” Kimbrough said. “It should be something that leaders want to do and set examples that they’re doing it.”