Poor Air Quality Linked To Cognitive Decline

An analysis of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Retirement Study conducted by Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, of the University of Southern California is the first to look at how air quality affects the cognitive function of older men and women. The research focused on data from 14,793 people over the age of 50 and found those living in areas with higher levels of air pollution scored poorer on cognitive function tests even after factoring in age, race, education, smoking, behavior, and cardiovascular condition. According to Ailshire, older adults are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of unhealthy air and there is emerging evidence that exposure may have adverse effects on the brain, as well as heart and respiratory health. More here.

Seeing A Specialist Reduces Patient Readmission Risk

A study focused on finding ways to reduce readmission rates among congestive heart failure patients over the age of 65 found that patients who saw a cardiologist had a significantly lower risk of returning to the hospital within 30 days. The study looked at heart failure admissions between 2009 and 2011 and found, among 2,311 patients, 65 percent were treated by a hospitalist and 35 percent were treated by a cardiologist. Among the 23.2 percent of patients that re-entered the hospital within a month of being discharged, 27 percent had been attended to by a hospitalist while just 16 percent were among those treated by a cardiologist. In addition, the analysis noted that readmission rates were lower for patients seen by a cardiologist despite being among the more severe cases. More here.

Older Americans Hit Hard By Foreclosure Crisis

Economic security is an important part of any retirement plan. And, for most of us, our home is among our most valuable assets. But, according to a new analysis from the AARP’s Public Policy Institute, approximately 600,000 Americans over the age of 50 are in foreclosure and about 625,000 are at least three months behind on their mortgage. The study, which looked at national loan-level data for the years 2007 to 2011, found that more than 1.5 million older Americans lost their homes during the financial crisis. And, though there’s a perception that seniors enjoy more economic security than other age groups, the study found that nearly one in 30 Americans over the age of 75 were facing foreclosure. The results of the study highlight the need for more creative policy solutions to the foreclosure crisis and more focus on the needs of older Americans. More here and here.

Older Americans Falling Into Poverty As They Age

According to an analysis of data from the University of Michigan done by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, poverty rates have increased every year since 2005 for older Americans and are worst among the oldest of the elderly. In 2009, 15 percent of Americans over the age of 85 were living in poverty and 6.0 percent of them fell into poverty after turning 85. The data suggests people are spending their retirement savings too quickly and falling into poverty as they grow older. Sudipto Banerjee, EBRI research associate and author of the report, said, as people age, their personal savings and pension account balances are depleted and their medical expenses increase. The study found that people living in poverty were far more likely to be suffering from health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes than people living above the poverty line. The odds of suffering a health condition of some sort goes up 45 to 55 percent for Americans living in poverty. More here and here.

New Social Security Claims Trending Downward

After hitting a record high in 2009, new social-security claims have fallen the past two years. In 2009, 3.2 million Americans over the age of 62 began collecting social security. In 2010, that number fell to 3.1 million and last year it dropped to 3 million. The downward trend in social-security claimants is partly due to a stronger economic environment and labor market, along with the incentive to delay claiming to boost benefits. The analysis, from the Urban Institute, found that 31 percent of eligible people registered for social security in 2009 and, by 2011, that percentage dropped to 26.9 percent. Richard Johnson, a senior fellow and director of retirement policy for the Urban Institute, wrote in the report that the trend toward delayed claiming that began around 2000 seems to have resumed after a spike in claimants during the recent recession. More here.

Nursing Home Ratings Find Improvements in Care

An analysis of federal data on the country’s nursing homes done by USA Today reveals an overall improvement in the level of care, though there remains a large number of low-rated nursing homes that haven’t improved since 2008 when the government began ranking the quality of care. The number of four-and five-star rated homes rose to 43 percent from 38 percent while the percentage of one-and two-star homes fell to 35 percent from 40 percent in 2009. Among the 15,7000 homes analyzed by USA Today, 564 received one star in each of the past three years and 448 had a five-star rating during each reporting period. More here.