Arizona Ranks 26 On AARP's Long Term Care Scorecard

Aug 30, 2017

10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 every day and more of the nation’s population will live well into their 80s, an age at which there is considerable demand for long term care services.

A new report by the American Association of Retired Persons, measured each state’s capacity to meet these demands.

As KAWC’s Stephanie Sanchez reports, Arizona falls in the middle of the list.

82-year old Maria Luisa Pallares sways her arms as she practices Tai Chi, a gentle form of exercise that can help maintain balance, flexibility and strength.

She is among a group of seniors at a recent week-long health event organized by Sunset Community Health Center.

Pallares enjoyed her first Tai Chi experience.

"I am very happy here and they’ve treated me well," Pallares said. "They helped me with everything."

Pallares retired to San Luis, Arizona from California 22 years ago. Her doctor told her Arizona’s dry climate will be good for her.

"I have arthritis," she said. "My doctor told me that humid weather is bad for arthritis."

Pallares is part of a rapidly growing aging population of people who will live well into their 80s—an age that comes with an increased demand for health care.

This part of the country is popular for retirees. But is the region ready to meet their needs?

AARP recently measured each U.S. state’s capacity to offer healthcare to people like Pallares.

They looked at access to affordable housing, choice of medical insurance and providers, and support for family caregivers. Arizona ranked number 26 on the list.

AARP State Director Dana Marie Kennedy says that’s a decline from the group’s 2014 report.

"You know I think a lot of it has to do with the funding, Kennedy said. "We’ve have had substantial cuts in our long term supportive services since 2008.”

The report found that Arizona could offer more subsidized housing for low-income seniors and that’s a big problem in this region.

This summer, multiple agencies joined to fund an apartment complex here geared toward low income seniors and the homeless.

The project is managed by Comite De Bienestar a non-profit housing development organization.

Executive director Tony Reyes says it’s the first in over a decade.

“It’s been a while, The recession really took a toll on development project," Reyes said. "It’s a good time to be doing this and things that you can actually see.”

Still, there’s a waiting list. Reyes said the city needs to continue to make housing a priority as the city grows and people age.

Back at the Sunset Community Health Center event, 69-year old Jose Villa, a former farmworker, is learning about simple healthy meals he can prepare at home.

He said housing takes the majority of his pension.

"I’d like to have affordable housing or building your own home programs," Villa said. "I understand nothing is free but some of us need a little help."

Villa said he depends on free events to monitor his health. He gets his sugar level, cholesterol, and blood pressure results within minutes.

"I got checked last year, I hope this year the results are good," Villa said.

He said he still needs to pick up odd jobs to supplement his income. 

Villa and Pallares said Arizona has some good resources for seniors but still needs improvement. That’s in line with the middle of the pack ranking Arizona received in AARP’s scorecard report.

The organization’s state director Dana Marie Kennedy said those improvements depend on the state legislature.

"We’re not keeping up with the demand," Kennedy said. "As long as Arizona legislature doesn’t make aging a priority in their state budget I think we’re going to continue to decline.”

This report was produced with the support of New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America and the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Maria Luisa Pallares (second in middle row) is practicing TaiChi at a health event organized by Sunset Community Health Center.
Credit Stephanie Sanchez

Sunset Community Health Center offered free cholesterol, sugar levels and blood pressure checks.
Credit Stephanie Sanchez

Guest speakers showed the public how to cook healthy meals at home.
Credit Stephanie Sanchez