Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report Details Older Adult Health in Every Community in the Commonwealth

First-of-its-Kind Report Reveals Individual Community Strengths and Challenges to Spark Targeted Interventions

WATERTOWN, MA – January 24, 2014 – The Tufts Health Plan Foundation today released the results of its Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report: Community Profiles, the first-of-its-kind report to list healthy aging indicators for older adults in each of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns plus the 16 neighborhoods of Boston. The data will be presented today at a Massachusetts Health Policy Forum, "Healthy Aging in the Commonwealth: Charting a Path Forward." To view the Highlights Report, each of the 367 Community Profiles and interactive maps of the data, visit the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative website.

Each Community Profile includes nearly 100 indicators describing attributes of population composition, physical/mental health, chronic disease, nutrition/diet, access to care, service utilization, wellness and prevention, and community variables such as crime rates and walkability.

“While states are often ranked on various health attributes, this is the first time in Massachusetts that we are able to compare communities within the state on such a vast range of healthy aging indicators,” said Jim Roosevelt, president of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and CEO of Tufts Health Plan. “Never before has Massachusetts had such a comprehensive view of healthy aging indicators reported at this local geographic level.”

“This comprehensive report provides important, geographic data on healthy aging in ways that will allow us to identify needs and prioritize resources,” said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, RN. “We look forward to working with our partners at the state and community level to learn from successful outcomes in healthy aging that we can build upon to eliminate disparities in the Commonwealth.”

The report was commissioned by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, which focuses its grantmaking and policy initiatives around healthy aging, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum at Brandeis University. Research for the report was conducted by Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, Frank Porell, PhD and Nina M. Silverstein, PhD from the Gerontology Institute of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The report uses data of older adults age 60+ and 65+ from three main sources: U.S. Census, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“I congratulate the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Boston Gerontology Institute on their innovative healthy aging data report for Massachusetts,” said Secretary Ann Hartstein, Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. “This report will be an invaluable tool for local, state and federal government agencies in designing programs and services for all of the Commonwealth’s older consumers.”

Aging in Massachusetts: The Findings
As baby boomers age, the older adult population in Massachusetts is expected to grow from 14 percent in 2010 to 21 percent by 2030, following similar national projections. The Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report looks at healthy aging by specific indicators at the local city and town level and across regions of the state. Key findings include:

Regional Variations
Six urban communities – New Bedford, Springfield, Fall River, Worcester, Lowell and South Boston – score below state averages on at least 16 out of nearly 100 indicators of healthy aging, with New Bedford reporting a high of 31 out of nearly 100 indicators below the state average. Communities in Massachusetts scoring better than the state average on more than 20 out of nearly 100 indicators of healthy aging include Carlisle, Wellesley, Harvard, Brookline, Belmont and Stow.

For a detailed look at regional highlights, please visit:

Aging in Boston: Key Findings
Aging in MetroWest Massachusetts: Key Findings
Aging in Northeast Massachusetts: Key Findings
Aging in Southeast Massachusetts: Key Findings
Aging in Central Massachusetts: Key Findings
Aging in Western Massachusetts: Key Findings

Chronic Conditions
In Massachusetts, the state average for persons age 65 or older having four or more chronic conditions is 59 percent, with the highest percentage of people with multiple chronic diseases in Fall River, Taunton, New Bedford, Somerset and Gardner.

While increased chronic conditions are associated with age, there are 23 communities where 13 to 16 percent of residents age 65 or older do not report any chronic conditions. These communities tend to be smaller rural areas within the western and central regions of the state such as Shelburne and Bolton.

Hypertension. As one of the most common chronic conditions, hypertension is high among adults age 65 or older in Massachusetts with a state average rate of 78 percent. Examples of communities with the highest rates (above 84 percent) for hypertension include Fall River and New Bedford, and the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. The lowest rates (60 to 62 percent) of hypertension are found in the suburbs of Lincoln and Carlisle, the Boston neighborhood of Back Bay-Beacon Hill and smaller towns in Martha’s Vineyard and Western Massachusetts.

Diabetes. In the same age group, 32 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes. Higher rates of diabetes are generally found in urban communities such as the Boston neighborhoods of Allston-Brighton, Hyde Park, Roxbury and Mattapan as well as the cities of Worcester, Springfield, Fall River, New Bedford, Lawrence and Lowell, which show rates up to 49 percent. The lowest rates are found in towns in the western suburbs of Boston and smaller towns in western Massachusetts.

Cancer and other Chronic Conditions. At 15 percent, the rate of prostate cancer among men age 65 or older in the state is higher than the rates for other cancers included in this report, including the rate of breast cancer among women in this age group (10 percent) and the rates of lung cancer and colon cancer, which both average 3 percent or under for persons age 65 or older. The report also finds average rates for lung disease and heart disease at about a quarter of the population, with average rates for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke at 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Depression. The state average rate for depression is 29 percent. There are several communities with rates higher than the state average (up to 36 percent) and these are in scattered locations across the Commonwealth including South and East Boston, Worcester and Great Barrington.

Preventative Health Behaviors
Obesity. In Massachusetts, 23 percent of adults age 60 and older are obese (BMI of 30 or greater). Obesity rates exceed 30 percent in southeast Boston and other urban cities such as Springfield, New Bedford, Brockton and Lowell. The Cape and Islands as well as towns in the western suburbs of Boston have the lowest rates of obesity among older residents in the state.

Diet and Exercise. On average, only a quarter of the residents in Massachusetts age 60 or older eat the recommended five servings daily of fruits and vegetables. The highest rates (about 33 percent) are found in the west suburban towns outside of Boston. The report also shows that older adult residents on Cape Cod and the Islands are the greatest participants in any physical activity (72 percent), while the least likely to participate in physical activity are older adults in Fall River (52 percent).

Smoking and Drinking. Nine percent of persons age 60 or older smoke, with the highest rates (16 percent) found in the Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston. Rates of smoking are less than 5 percent in west suburban towns outside of Boston. The state average rate for excessive drinkingin this age group is also about 9 percent, with only modest variations state-wide.

Annual Physicals. Over 90 percent of Massachusetts residents age 60 or older report that they get annual physical exams. However, the percentage drops to 76 percent for annual dental exams in the same age group, with the state average for complete tooth loss in persons age 65 or older at 36 percent.

Immunizations. About two out of three adults in Massachusetts age 60 or older are getting annual flu shots and have received the pneumonia vaccine. The state average for getting the shingles vaccine is only 15 percent. 


About the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report
The Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report: Community Profiles is intended to expand the conversation about healthy aging for a broad audience of community, service, thought and policy leaders in the Commonwealth. The goal is to assess the health status of the Massachusetts older adult population at a sufficiently local level to be actionable for the purposes of targeted interventions. The report was commissioned by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation in collaboration with the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum at Brandeis University. Research for the report was led by the Gerontology Institute of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. To view the Highlights Report, each of the 367 Community Profiles and interactive maps, please visit the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative website: www.mahealthyagingcollaborative.org.

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