Last month, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder released the 2008 Missouri Senior Report, which provides information on the economic, social and health status of seniors in each Missouri county.
"Missouri took a giant leap forward two years ago when it rolled out the state's first-ever senior report," said Kinder, who serves as Missouri's official senior advocate. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hailed the report as nationally innovative, a way to ensure that key information on Missouri seniors is available to those who need it for planning programs and tracking trends."
The latest Missouri Senior Report, which was compiled by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the University of Missouri Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, shows that seniors have a large impact on their local economies. Data indicates that seniors are more likely to shop locally than to travel to another town or state to purchase goods and services.
The 2008 report notes that improvements have been made in senior workforce participation and transportation.
In Barry County, the number of seniors who are working for pay increased from 7.7 percent to 8.6 percent between 2001 and 2006. The number of seniors across the state who are participating in the workforce increased from 8.2 percent to 11.5 percent between 2005 and 2006.
Workforce participation can be viewed as either a positive or negative trend depending on whether seniors are working because they need more money for living expenses or because more jobs that are less physically-demanding are available to them.
The number of seniors who have their own form of transportation has also increased over the last few years. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of seniors driving in Barry County increased from 82.9 percent to 88.8 percent, which is 5.2 percent higher than the number of seniors driving in the state.
The 2008 report indicates that trends have declined in the areas of health status and long-term care.
In Barry County, although the number of seniors who reported that they are smokers or have diabetes has declined, more seniors are overweight and fewer are exercising and receiving preventative tests, like mammograms.
Although the health status of seniors needs more improvement, the report indicates that local seniors have submitted fewer Medicaid claims for long-term care or nursing home facilities. More seniors are using in-home care services to remain independent.
According to the 2008 report, the amount of funds used to pay for nursing home facility services in Barry County decreased over $2.6 million between 2002 and 2007. Claims paid for in-home care services increased over $3 million over the five-year period.
Even though senior housing is becoming more affordable and poverty is less likely to affect seniors in Missouri, local seniors indicate that living expenses are becoming more burdensome. The percent of local seniors who reported feeling burdened by housing costs increased from 21.9 percent to 28 percent between 2000 and 2007.
"When seniors have to spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing-related costs, it puts a financial burden on them," said Jane Drummond, DHSS director. "The percentage of Missouri seniors who faced this burden declined slightly last year, to 28.5 percent, as compared to 28.9 percent in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey."
The Missouri Senior Report is designed to help state departments and senior organizations develop programs to address issues that seniors are facing.
Seniors account for over 13 percent of Missouri's population and nearly 16 percent of the Barry County population. Due to increases in life expectancy and the aging of the baby boom generation, state officials estimate that the number of seniors living in Missouri will reach 19 percent within the next 16 years.