Aging in Northeast Massachusetts: Key Findings

The Northeast region has both older industrial cities and sparsely populated coastal towns with differing population health. The coastal Cape Ann communities (Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport) have better than average rates on several chronic disease and health behavior indicators.

On the flip side, Lowell ranks with five other urban cities statewide – New Bedford, Fall River, South Boston, Springfield and Worcester – as one of the communities that scores below state averages on the greatest number of healthy aging indicators.

Compared to state averages, older residents of Lowell do worse on 19 out of nearly 100 healthy aging indicators, such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, stroke, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hypertension, heart attack and obesity. In Massachusetts, 23 percent of adults age 60 and older are obese (BMI of 30 or greater), yet obesity rates exceed 30 percent in Lowell.

In addition, Lowell has a higher percentage of older adults reporting fair or poor health and more physically unhealthy days compared to the state average. Lowell also shows higher rates of hospital stays and emergency room visits among older adults.

The city of Lawrence scores below the state average for many of the same indicators, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, COPD and hypertension as well as other healthy aging indicators such as congestive heart failure and glaucoma.

Compared to state averages, older residents in Lynn rate worse on many health indicators including depression, diabetes, hypertension, COPD, heart disease, congestive heart failure and lung cancer, among others.

However, older residents of Lowell and Lawrence both have lower than average rates for breast cancer and osteoporosis, while older residents in Lynn have lower than average rates of arthritis.

On other indicators of healthy aging in the Northeast region:

Diabetes. Lowell and Lawrence have two of the highest rates in the state for diabetes (each at 44 percent compared to a state average of 32 percent). Higher than state average rates of diabetes are also observed in communities along the New Hampshire border, including Dracut, Haverhill, Methuen and Tyngsborough.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. Topsfield and Danvers have some of the highest rates in the state for Alzheimer’s and related dementias among older residents (each at 19 percent compared to a state average of 14 percent).

Depression. Dunstable leads the state for the lowest percentage of older adults ever having been diagnosed with depression (15 percent compared to a state average of 29 percent).

Hypertension. Everett, Lawrence and Methuen have the highest rates in the Northeast region for hypertension (each at 82 percent compared to a state average of 78 percent).

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