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Older Americans see growing rate of chronic disease


By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: July 1, 2014 - 7:15 pm ET
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The prevalence of chronic diseases among older Americans continues to rise despite a reduction in some of the behaviors associated with developing such conditions, according to a new report.

While rates of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have gone down among men and women 65 and older, 72% of men and 66% of women within that age span are either overweight or obese, according to the findings of a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

Of greater concern is the number of older Americans now diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, all of which have increased in prevalence among this population between 1998 and 2008, according to the report.

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In 2008 around 51% of the elderly reported having one of more chronic diseases, with 41% having three or more, By contrast, only 8% of those age 65 and over in 2008 reportedly had no chronic conditions.

More Americans are living longer, and as such, the demand and costs associated with providing medical and extended long-term care will continue to increase. The number of people in the U.S. 65 and older was estimated at 40 million in 2010, and that is expected to more than double by 2050.

The average cost of a private room in a skilled-nursing facility in 2010 was $229 a day and more than $83,000 a year. The report found that less than one-fifth of older people have the personal financial resources to live in a nursing home for more than three years, and almost two-thirds cannot afford one year.

While the share of older Americans residing in a skilled-nursing facility went down from 4.5% in 2000 to 3.1% in 2010, utilization of other care services, such as assisted living facilities and home healthcare agencies has been on the rise. Medicaid, which typically begins paying for long-term-care services only after patients exhaust their own resources, has accounted for an increasingly large share of funding for long-term-care services, making up 43% in 2006.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson


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