Aging in Western Massachusetts: Key Findings

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

Compared to Massachusetts state averages, older residents in Springfield have lower rates of hospital stays, hospital readmissions, and cancer (breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer). However, more older adults in Springfield (64 percent compared to a state average of 59 percent) have four or more chronic conditions. At 66 percent, Holyoke also exceeds the state average for four or more chronic conditions among older adults.

In Massachusetts, 23 percent of adults age 60 and older are obese (BMI of 30 or greater), yet obesity rates hit 30 percent in Springfield. In addition, Springfield older adults have higher rates of depression, diabetes, stroke, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hypertension, congestive heart failure, arthritis, glaucoma, complete tooth loss and emergency room visits. Springfield also has the lowest rate in the state of older adults who get the shingles vaccine.

Like Springfield, Holyoke ranks below the state average on many of these same indicators including depression, diabetes, stroke, COPD, hypertension and arthritis. Older adults in Holyoke also have higher rates of hip fracture, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

While increased chronic conditions are associated with age, there are 23 communities in Massachusetts where 13 to 16 percent of residents age 65 or older do not report any chronic conditions. Nearly two thirds of these communities are in the Western region, including Ashfield, Beckett, Buckland, Chesterfield, Conway, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Shelburne, Stockbridge, Washington and Worthington. The report also identifies some of the lowest rates of glaucoma in the Western region, including the communities of Chesterfield, Middlefield and Worthington.

On other indicators of healthy aging in the Western region:

Hypertension. The Berkshire communities of Clarksburg, Florida, North Adams and Savoy have one of the highest rates of hypertension among older adults in the state (83 percent compared to a state average of 78 percent).

Depression. Great Barrington exceeds the state average for depression among older adults (31 percent compared to a state average of 29 percent) whereas Southampton has one of the lowest rates in the state for depression at 20 percent.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. East Longmeadow has one of the highest rates in the state for Alzheimer’s and related dementias among older residents (20 percent compared to a state average of 14 percent). On the flip side, there are many communities in the Western region which score below the state average for Alzheimer’s disease, including the towns of Cummington, Goshen and Plainfield which have the lowest percentage in the state for the disease (6 percent).

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