Can a Neighborhood Affect an Older Adult’s Health?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, living in socially and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods can have a negative influence on older adults’ health and well-being.

Older adults who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods report having poorer health and have more difficulty getting around and performing daily tasks. What’s more, older adults living in disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to have more chronic illnesses and higher rates of death than do older adults who live in less disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Many issues affect the relationship between neighborhoods and health. One may be that disadvantaged neighborhoods have lower levels of social support for older adults and their caregivers. These neighborhoods also tend to have fewer physical resources, such as access to health care, retail stores, and recreational facilities.

Social and other resources are important for older adults. Therefore, older adults living in disadvantaged neighborhoods may find it harder to maintain well-being while aging. This can make it challenging for our society as a whole to benefit from our increased longevity.

The research team who conducted the study used the 2013 Medicare Health Outcome Survey (HOS) survey. This is a telephone and mail survey that was given to older adults enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) health plans (MA plans are insurance plans offered by private companies approved by Medicare). Around 17.6 million people are enrolled in MA plans. This is 31 percent of the population eligible for Medicare (the government program that provides health insurance to people 65-years-old and older). Information about 187,434 older adults was included in the study.

The researchers concluded that disadvantaged neighborhoods are an important predictor of mobility and other limitations among MA beneficiaries, particularly for those with multiple chronic conditions. Compared to those living in less disadvantaged neighborhoods, MA beneficiaries who have multiple chronic conditions and who live in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods are 12 percent more likely to report difficulty performing at least one daily task, such as bathing, dressing, or keeping house.

The researchers suggested that increasing resources in disadvantaged neighborhoods to support health programs for older adults could improve their health outcomes.

This summary is from “Linking Neighborhood Context and Health in Community-Dwelling Older Adults in the Medicare Advantage Program.” It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Daniel Jung, BS; Amy Kind, MD, PhD; Stephanie Robert, MSW, PhD; William Buckingham, PhD; and Eva DuGoff, PhD, MPP.

Obese Older Adults Who Survive Cardiac Surgery May Have Increased Risk for Functioning Poorly

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Obese Older Adults Who Survive Cardiac Surgery May Have Increased Risk for Functioning Poorly

More than one-third of Americans are considered obese based on their Body Mass Index (BMI). (BMI measures the ratio between your height and weight. A BMI of 30 or above signals obesity.)  As more and more of us age, we also are likely to see an increase in the number of older people who have a difficult time maintaining a healthy body weight. That’s a serious problem, since obesity can impact many parts of our health and daily life. For example, studies show people who are obese have more complications following heart surgery—an increasingly common surgery for older adults—than do people who are considered overweight (but not obese) or who maintain a “normal” weight.

Although we know that obese older adults may be surviving heart surgery with more complications, few researchers have studied how well they can manage daily activities like eating, bathing, walking short distances, dressing, getting in or out of bed, and using the toilet.

To learn more about this key issue, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined information from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Symptoms of Depression Linked to Problems Performing Regular Daily Activities for Older Japanese Adults

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Recently, researchers investigated whether depressive symptoms might make it harder for older adults to perform their regular daily activities. The researchers also wanted to find out whether living circumstances or marital status had any impact on whether depressive symptoms affected older adults’ abilities to perform daily activities.

Symptoms of depression are common among older adults. Signs of depressive symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in self-care and/or following medical advice
  • Little interest in social activities
  • Feeling “empty” inside
  • Trouble sleeping and/or feeling anxious
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Change in appetite and weight
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feeling that one is a burden

The researchers examined information from 769 older adults who participated in the Kurabuchi Study starting in 2005. The study was designed to look at how well adults 65-years-old and older could perform their daily functions. The researchers published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading