HUNTINGTON - With West Virginia's population aging, it's not encouraging that the state ranks 50th for the second consecutive year in well-being of those over 55, according to a new study released Tuesday. The good news is the state is working on a plan to improve.
The study, part of Gallup-Healthway's State of American Well-Being series, examined the well-being of Americans ages 55 and older using five different indicators: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.
Nationally, older Americans have a significantly higher well-being than their younger counterparts, scoring three points higher. They are more financially sound, eat more fresh produce, smoke less and have less worry and stress.
However, older West Virginians are struggling.
Overall, the Mountain state had a well-being score of 59.9, coming in two whole points below Kentucky, which ranked 49th. Ohio came in at 47th.
In regard to purpose, defined as liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals, West Virginia ranked 50th. The state also ranked 50th in the social category (having supportive relationships and love in your life) and the physical category (having good health and enough energy to get things done daily).
For community - or liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community - West Virginia ranked 49th.
The state's highest rank was for financial, or managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security, but the state only placed 46th.
This is already on the state's radar, however. The West Virginia Health Care Authority is gathering input as it puts together a new State Health Plan. Per state code, the health plan serves as the legal foundation for all of the authority's regulatory decisions. The state plan was last updated in 2000.
The overall goal of the plan is to improve the health of all West Virginians, but the state chose four areas to focus on, one being healthy aging.
One of the proposed initiatives to improve aging is making West Virginia the first dementia-friendly state, which makes communities more aware and more accommodating to those with dementia, particularly educating first responders how to respond during an emergency.
Another proposed initiative is using a version of telehealth to expand specialty geriatric care to rural areas.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.