Nov 28, 2022 - News

Arizona seniors are more likely to be lonely, economically unstable

Illustration of an elderly man in a wheelchair with a giant quarter for a wheel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Arizona's senior citizens are more likely to experience economic instability, food insecurity and loneliness than their peers in other states, according to a new report by Alignment Health, a Medicare Advantage provider covering the state.

Why it matters: Stability and a support system can have a greater impact on a senior's health than access to medical care, Dr. John Kim of Alignment Health tells Axios Phoenix.

What he's saying: "I'm a believer in mind, body and spirit," Kim said. "If you're not mentally healthy it tends to spill over to your physical health."

State of play: Health care institutions and advocacy organizations are preparing for a wave of more baby boomers who will reach retirement age in the next few years and compete over already-limited resources for aging Americans, Axios' Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi reports

  • An estimated 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the U.S., and the population of older adults is expected to double over the next few decades.

By the numbers: Adults 65 and older make up 18% of Arizona's population, according to the Census Bureau's 2021 estimates.

  • And more seniors are moving here. Arizona had a net gain of 21,440 older adults from 2015-2019 and the highest net migration rate in the country, per a recent Census report.

Of note: The Alignment Health report also found that about 1 in 12 Arizona seniors is not very or not at all satisfied with their health care, which is more than double the rate of dissatisfaction nationally.

  • Kim said he did not know the reason for the dissatisfaction but suggested it could be because of a lack of providers in rural parts of the state.

Zoom in: Arizona social services providers have been raising alarm bells for the past few years about a "silver tsunami" of seniors becoming homeless for the first time in their 60s and 70s.

  • As rents have risen to a record high of $1,600 in Phoenix, retirees who live exclusively on social security (average payment: $1,631 per month) have been priced out of housing.

What's next: CASS, the largest homeless shelter in the state, is working to open a senior-only shelter near I-17 and Northern Avenue at the former Phoenix Inn.

  • CASS CEO Lisa Glow told The Arizona Republic earlier this year that the organization started pursuing a place geared toward older adults when it saw that a third of the people staying at the organization's main shelter were 55 and older. More than 85% of them have a medical condition and 63% have a mobility impairment.
  • The new shelter will have private rooms and bathrooms for each person, accessible accommodations and targeted services for older adults.
  • It's scheduled to open next summer.
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