Seniors and Older Adult Health

In Washington County, 108,653 residents — over 18 percent of the total population — is comprised of adults 60 years of age and above. Currently, more than 40 million Americans are over the age of 65, which is about 14% of the U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, by 2035 20% of the U.S. population will be over 65 years of age.

Among Washington County's residents 60 and older:

Source: American Community Survey 1-year estimates, 2017. "Cost-burdened" means that more than 30 percent of household income goes to housing costs.

How do seniors and older adults compare to other Washington County residents?

Source: American Community Survey 1-year estimates, 2017

Concerns Reported Among Older Adults

In August 2016, Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services conducted a survey about concerns in the older adult community. Results are displayed in the accompanying chart. Two-thirds of adults surveyed had serious concerns about housing costs. Roughly four in five adults between ages 50 and 64 reported that they have heard “many concerns” regarding housing costs.


Source: Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services Survey, 2016

Disabilities and Health Conditions

The prevalence of any disability among older adults has remained steady over the past five years, with more than one in four (about 27%) of the population over age 60 in Washington County. Chronic illness has replaced acute illness as the major health problem of older adults. Approximately 91 percent of older adults in the U.S. have one or more chronic health conditions. The prevalence of chronic health conditions increases with age, as reflected in the chart below.

Source: Oregon Health Authority

Long-Term Care and Falls

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries and hospitalization for Oregon adults aged 65 years and over. In 2013, 639 deaths and 8,664 hospitalizations were due to falls in Oregon. About 90% of the deaths and 68% of the hospitalizations were for Oregonians 65 years or over, and hospitalizations for falls increased with age. The rate of fatal falls among persons 85 years and older is 21 times than for those age 65–74 years old.

Fall-related mortality (those who died as a result of a fall) increased 46% in adults over 65 years old. Hospitalizations due to a fall also increase with age; those age 85 years and older were seven times more likely to be hospitalized for a fall than those age 65-74 years.

Falls result in significant physical, personal, social and economic burdens. Oregon hospital costs related to senior falls exceeded $219 million in 2013, with a median, or midpoint per patient cost of $33,000. Falls frequently cause traumatic brain injury, hip fractures and can lead to long-term disability.

Although falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults, research shows many older adults who fall do not report the fall to their health care provider [1]. This lack of reporting is a problem because a history of falls is a risk factor and a missed opportunity for providers to intervene and recommend preventive options. 

Depression and Isolation Among Seniors

In the most recent regional needs assessment, depression was identified as the second most diagnosed chronic condition in all adults. Due to stigma, social isolation and a lack of resources, older adults are particularly vulnerable. Depression is the top-ranked mental health indicator of morbidity in Washington County. According to the 2016 DAVS Area Plan, 40% of older adults identified depression, anxiety and stress as major health concerns.

Depression and isolation are serious health issues. One study from 2018 found that loneliness and social isolation is as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Depressed mood is the most prevalent risk factor for suicide in Washington County, and the highest suicide rate is among older adults.

Through Washington County’s Older Adult Behavioral Health Initiative, support is available for older adults at risk for and currently experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A variety of programs that help reduce risk factors of anxiety and depression are supported by the initiative. 

About the Data

Demographic data on the population 60 years and older is from the American Community Survey's 1-year estimates, Table S0102.

Concerns Reported Among Older Adults in Washington County is from the Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services Survey.

Prevalence of Chronic Health Conditions data is from the Oregon Health Authority.


Additional Resources

Healthy Columbia Willamette: 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment

• Washington County Disability, Aging and Veterans Services 

• Institute on Aging: Aging in America

• LiveStats: Median Age in Washington County

• LiveStats: Veterans in Washington County


References 

1. Stevens JA, Ballesteros MF, Mack KA, Rudd RA, DeCaro E, Adler G. "Gender differences in seeking care for falls in the aged Medicare Population." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2012;43:59–62

2. Oregon Health Authority. "Suicide, Falls, Overdose, Motor Vehicle Traffic, and Violence: Oregon Injury Data and Trends 2000-2012".