Connie Allen, 84, of Buxton talks with a nurse before getting her second COVID-19 vaccine shot in March 2021 at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. “I’m going to go into the mall and walk around. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Maine has a low rate of multiple chronic health issues among seniors, low percentage of low-care nursing home residents and high rate of cancer screenings.

All good news, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual Senior Report for 2022.

Less-laudable findings are Maine’s high suicide rate, high rate of full-mouth tooth extractions and low level of spending on community support for seniors.

Maine received an overall rank of 13th in the United States. The top five were Utah, Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut and Colorado, respectively. New Hampshire was No. 6 and Massachusetts came in at No. 10.

Mississippi ranked last. Rounding out the bottom five were Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. High rates of smoking, obesity and early deaths were cited as challenges for these states.

The United Health Foundation’s 10th annual “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report” highlights improvements, challenges and disparities in health and well-being during the past decade, according to the recently released report.


The report’s highlights for Maine seniors included:

• A 46% increase in the smoking rate between 2014 and 2020, from 6.1% to 8.9% per 100,000 adults 65 or older.

• A 25% decrease in frequent physical distress, from 16.3% to 12.3% between 2018 and 2020.

• A 17% increase in flu vaccination, from 61.6% to 72.3% between 2011 and 2020.

In response to challenges, Maine has initiatives in place to address the suicide rate and insufficient dental care, according to Jackie Farwell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“Earlier this month, Gov. (Janet) Mills signed an executive order establishing a Cabinet on Aging, fulfilling a promise from her State of the State address,” Farwell said, adding Maine’s median age makes it the oldest state, increasing demand for aging-related services.


Among the initiatives, Maine DHHS is investing more than $230 million in state and federal funds over the 2022-23 biennium to strengthen Maine’s behavioral health system, including suicide prevention and response, Farwell said.

This effort, supported by Mills and the Legislature, includes collaboration among state and local organizations “to support mobile crisis teams who can directly respond to the location of a person in crisis or offer walk-in services at facilities that provide a home-like environment,” Farwell said.

As for dental care, an allocation in the biennial budget will be used to establish an adult dental benefit under MaineCare by July 1, she said.

“Adults aged 21 and over will have access to a comprehensive benefit, covering full and partial dentures, preventive services, diagnostic services and restorative services,” Farwell said. “Prior to this, MaineCare covered only extractions for adults.”

Farwell did not cite an initiative to meet the challenge of a low level of spending on community support for seniors.

Maine, however, offers “a participant-directed model that allows the member or their representative to act as employer to direct their care,” she said.


Certain programs also allow spouses to be reimbursed for providing personal care services, she said.

Farwell said the strengths cited in the “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report” are the result of public health initiatives funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

She said the state’s low rate of multiple chronic health issues among seniors may be attributed to the Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Program, which includes cancer prevention and control.

“Maine also uses a standardized objective medical assessment to accurately determine individuals’ needs for long-term services and supports, such as nursing facility care,” Farwell said.

“Today, adults ages 65 and older make up approximately 16.9% of the United States population, or just over 55.6 million adults,” according to the report.

The age group is estimated to comprise 21% of the population (73.1 million) by 2030.

That, according to the report, makes it “essential to our nation’s continued well-being that we understand the short- and long-term trends affecting the health of this growing and vulnerable population.”

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