AARP Eye Center
Wyoming’s aging population is growing at a much higher rate than the total state population. That is just one of the findings of the 2023 Wyoming Healthy Aging Data Report (healthyagingdatareports.org/wyoming-healthy-aging-data-report/), released August 25.
According to the data report, between 2010 and 2021, the aging population (those 65 and over) increased 47%, while the total population of Wyoming grew just 2%. While a full 16% of Wyomingites age 65 and over, the bulk of those over 65 and over tend to be in the “young-old,” group of those between the ages of 65 and 74 years old.
“There is some good news from this report. Many older adults may need some type of services or supports after age 75 to preserve their independence,” says AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway. “Wyoming’s older population is overwhelmingly ‘young’ in the 65-74 age range. Thus these young older adults may be our solution to a range of issues. And as a state we still have time to enhance vital aging services and infrastructure to allow older residents to enjoy a high quality of life at home instead of more costly institutions.”
What is the Wyoming Healthy Aging Data Report?
The 2023 Wyoming Healthy Aging Data Report is an easy-to-use resource created by researchers at the Gerontology Institute of the University of Massachusetts-Boston led by Dr. Elizabeth Dugan, in partnership with the Wyoming Healthy Aging Coalition and coordinated by Professor Emeritus Virginia B. Vincenti, PhD, CFCS, at the University of Wyoming.
The data report includes 23 county profiles, each with 130 healthy aging indicators and 130 maps with alphabetical and ranked lists of indicators by county. The 130 indicators provide a comprehensive picture of health outcomes and factors that contribute to healthy aging in Wyoming. The Wyoming data reveal important patterns of disease, health behaviors, resource distribution, and disparities in healthy aging. This is data that can be used to inform policy decisions that support better health among Wyoming’s populace.
Snapshot of an older adult in Wyoming
Laramie County has the state’s highest number of residents aged 60 and over with over 22,000, followed by Natrona 17,000, and Fremont County 10,000, while Niobrara has just shy of 700 residents aged 60 and over. The highest percentage of population over age 65 in Wyoming belongs to Hot Springs (27%), Johnson (25%), Platte Counties (24%), and Park Counties (23%). Campbell County (10%) and Albany County (11.8%) have the state’s lowest percentage of adults over the age of 65 as a part of their total population.
The report also offered a snapshot of those age 65 and over living in Wyoming:
- There are more than 95,000 people in Wyoming age 65 and over
- 51.7% of that population are women
- 64% have a high school degree or some college experience
- More than 80% of this population failed to eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- 30% spend more than one-third of their income on housing
- More than 25% live alone.
- 28% self-reported as obese. Nationally, Obesity costs the US system nearly $173 billion a year.
- 29% had significant tooth loss (six or more); yet nearly 70% reported getting an annual dental exam.
- 22.4% are veterans.
- 20% are employed.
- 19.2% have ambulatory difficulty.
- 18.6% have hearing difficulty.
- 9.4% have independent living difficulty.
- 8% had an income below the federal poverty line.
- 8% reported excessive drinking.
- 7% reported having 15 or more days of public health in the last month.
- 6.1% have vision difficulty.
- There were 221 suicides reported among residents after 60 and over between 2016-2020.
Wyomingites Have Shorter Life Expectancy Than Regional States
The Healthy Aging Data Report shows Wyoming has the region’s lowest life expectancy at birth of just 78.1 years. That is just under the national average of 78.2, and below Montana (79), Idaho (79.1), Utah (79.4) and Colorado (79.5). However, the Cowboy State has a lower rate of Alzheimer’s and related dementias as well with cancer than its neighboring states among those age 65 and over. Wyoming otherwise ranked close to the other regional states in the categories of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias; and those age 65+ with heart disease.
The report points out 74% of the state’s counties are termed, “frontier counties,” or those who have fewer than seven residents per square mile. One-in-five frontier residents in Wyoming are age 65 or older. On average, frontier counties have five times less access to primary care physicians, and lower rates of diagnosed chronic disease.
Wyomingites age 65+ report high blood pressure as the most common chronic disease in the state, as 42% of older adults in Wyoming report living with hypertension. Other rates of chronic disease in Wyoming include arthritis (27%), high cholesterol (26%), heart disease (21%), and diabetes (20%).
This is important because the CDC estimates 90% of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic disease and mental health conditions. According to the CDC, More than 877,500 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year, accounting for one-third of all deaths. These diseases take an economic toll, as well, costing our healthcare system $216 billion per year and causing $147 billion in lost productivity on the job.
County-Level Health Data
The Wyoming Healthy Aging Data Report, breaks out data by Wyoming County. That allows for analysis by region of these health indicators. Teton County has the state’s highest number of health indicators which are better than the state average with 11 indicators. Laramie (seven indicators), and Albany County (four) round out the top three counties with the highest number of health indicators better than the state average. Big Horn County has the state’s highest number of health indicators worse than the state average with seven, while Weston has five, Carbon and Niobrara Counties have three apiece.
The report suggests an association between socioeconomic status and better or worse health rates. Teton County ($95,413 median income for county residents age 65+) and Laramie County ($52,955) have the highest number of health indicators that are better than the state average, while Big Horn ($35,663), Weston ($32,500), and Carbon ($33,878) counties have the most health indicators that are worse than the state average.
Teton, Campbell, Albany, and Uinta Counties have the state’s highest access to broadband, while Platte, Goshen, Niobrara, Crook, and Big Horn Counties have the state’s lowest rates of access.
The Healthy Aging Data Report points out Laramie (49%), Converse (46%) and Natrona Counties (46%) have the state’s highest rates of hypertension in those aged 65 and over. Meanwhile, Big Horn County has the state’s highest rates of heart failure (15%), Arthritis (33%), and diabetes (25%).
The state’s lowest occurrences of diabetes are in Crook (13.4%); Sublette (14.3%), and Johnson Counties (16.4%). Sheridan County (9.3%) has the state’s lowest rate of heart failure, followed by Johnson County (9.4%). For a full list of county-specific data, click below:
- County-by-county comparison for hypertension
- County-by-county comparisons for Alzheimers and related dementia
- County-by-county comparisons for arthritis
- County-by-county comparisons for asthma
- County-by-county comparisons for AFib rates
- County-by-county comparisons for chronic kidney disease
- County-by-county comparisons for COPD
- County-by-county comparisons for diabetes rates
- County-by-county comparisons for heart failure
- County-by-county comparisons for osteoporosis
- County-by-county comparisons for stroke
State Population Changes
In addition to changes in the state’s aging population, the Healthy Aging Data Report noted a number of other interesting changes in Wyoming’s population between 2010 and 2021.
- Wyoming’s population grew to 581,348.
- During that 11-year period Laramie County gained 8,617 residents, the state’s highest increase.
- During that same time, Sweetwater County had the state’s largest decline, losing 1,966 fewer people.
- The age 65+ group increased 47% from 2010-21. In 2010, just 12.5% of the total Wyoming was age 65+. In 2021 that group grew to more than 16%.
Research funding was provided by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture, Life Sciences, & Natural Resources. Note that this work is a first step in building the Wyoming Integrated Statistical Environment (WISE) , an innovative interactive online data hub that will deliver timely information for Wyoming decision makers at the county, ZIP, and census place levels. Once WISE is deployed, users will be able to select and map variables of interest across a variety of topics and easily download their selections for further analysis to guide their decision making. To learn more about WISE contact professor Anders T. Van Sandt at email@example.com.
For more information on the report, contact Tom Lacock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-432-5802.