If we believe the saying that 60 is the new 40, then our parents and grandparents should be enjoying quite an extended prime of life.
And while many older Americans are in good health and making smart choices to live well as they age, too many seniors are not — including many here in Kentucky.
With America's senior population set to double by 2050, it is imperative that we address health concerns now so that we can sustain services provided to all seniors over the long run.
Especially concerning are behavioral and lifestyle-related measures that — left unchanged — will lead to even higher rates of chronic disease and more dependence on medical care.
Kentucky ranks 48th among all 50 states in senior health, according to United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings Senior Report. Physical inactivity, in particular, continues to plague seniors statewide and nationally.
More than 40 percent of Kentucky seniors are physically inactive, which is defined as doing no physical activity or exercise (such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening or walking) other than their regular job in the last 30 days.
Nationally, one-third of seniors were physically inactive in 2015, worsening after improvements last year.
Unhealthful lifestyles pose long-term challenges for seniors, including obesity (26.7 percent nationally) and increased risk of chronic conditions; this year's report shows 37.6 percent of seniors have four or more chronic conditions. In Kentucky, that number is slightly worse, at 41.6 percent, ranking it 45th in the nation.
Other challenges for Kentucky seniors include smoking, low percentage of dental visits and a high premature death rate.
These numbers are troubling; however, it is up to us — as individuals, as communities, and as a state— to improve them. Fifty percent of a person's health status is a result of behavior — choices made each day with respect to physical and emotional well-being.
And the collective result of changing daily behaviors can bring about big changes to our overall health.
The report identifies health challenges in our communities, but it is more than a snapshot. It is a call to action.
The full report is available at americashealthrankings.org/senior, along with state-by-state rankings and a full resource library with websites and articles offering information and actions we can take to address health problems.
Visitors to the site can post stories about proven or innovative programs that have made a difference in their lives, and can share them via Facebook or Twitter.
I invite all to join the conversation.
You can learn more by following us on Twitter, @AHR_Rankings, Facebook (www.facebook.com/AmericasHealthRankings) and on our website, www.americashealthrankings.org/senior.