Formerly the WVLTCP, we are now WVPEL, Inc.
Funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation

Health Promotion health status of older West Virginians assumes increasing importance as the general population of the state ages. The rural setting of the state often impedes older West Virginians’ access to the healthcare system and their ability to remain in good health. Preparing adequately and compassionately to care for our citizens as they age means evaluating the current and the anticipated population’s health, disease, and service utilization, as well as cost implications.

At its core, health aging encompasses preserving good mental, physical and social health. West Virginians age 65 and older do report better health or health habits than other age groups. However, many key health determinants such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lack of physical activity, and arthritis most often increase as people age.

Of particular concern is Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in individuals age 65 and older in West Virginia. West Virginia adults have reported high rates of behaviors or conditions that many studies identify as being risk factors for dementia, including smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, and physical inactivity. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease impacts the health of not just the person with the disease, but the health of family caregivers, often an elderly spouse.

Employing strategies to avoid the onset of and managing these health conditions are critical to maintaining a healthy, happy older population. These efforts also should result in cost savings through a reduction in hospitalizations and the need for intensive long-term services and supports.

During Spring 2010, the Health Status Working Group explored these issues further and its report is available in the Library.