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Report: NV Seniors Face High Rates of Hunger, Suicide

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AARP
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A new study shows seniors in Nevada had some of the worst rates of hunger and suicide in the country, even before the pandemic.

The 2021 America's Health Rankings Senior Report from UnitedHealth Foundation and the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association also showed Nevada's 65-and-over set aren't getting enough sleep.

Favil West, founder and chairman of the nonprofit Foundation Assisting Seniors, laid the blame on financial woes.

"Taxes have gone up and the price of food and gas has gone up," West observed. "And it causes seniors on a fixed income a lot of pain. If there's mental-health problems, I would say most of it is flowing from that. The insecurity created by Social Security not keeping up."

The report also found Nevada needs more health-care providers, although there has been some progress on that score, with a 32% jump between 2018 and 2020 in the number of geriatric providers per 100,000 people over age 65.

Jeffrey Klein, president and CEO of Nevada Senior Services, a nonprofit that provides adult day care and other services and a former member of the Commission on Aging and the Commission's legislative subcommittee, said the state's population is aging rapidly, thanks to a big influx of retirees in recent years. Many of them are at risk of becoming isolated, with no family in Nevada to help them.

"They get to a point where they start needing resources," Klein explained. "They don't have the family support system close at hand. And we do not have an infrastructure in Nevada to support that."

Dr. Rhonda Randall, executive vice president and chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said Nevadans are ahead of the national average in several key areas.

"Some of the strengths are access to high-speed internet," Randal noted. "Nevada has one of the lower rates of seniors who have multiple chronic conditions. Physical inactivity is lower in Nevada, as well as falls."

Nationwide, the report showed more seniors are getting flu shots prior to the pandemic. But it also found rising rates of drug deaths, suicide and frequent mental distress.