new report on the status of U.S. seniors ranks Nebraska 14th among the states, moving down one spot from 2023.

Nationally, the “America’s Health Rankings 2024 Senior Report” showed improvements in the percentages of U.S. seniors with high-speed internet, and a lower early death rate between the ages of 65-74.

However, it showed more older adults are seeing economic challenges, from poverty and food insecurity to housing cost burdens.

Rod Horsley, executive director of the South Central Nebraska Area Agency on Aging in Kearney, said it comes as no surprise, as many people come to their Aging and Disability Resource Center for help applying for public benefits.

“Low-income energy assistance, the SNAP program, Medicaid in general, assistance in paying for medications,” Horsley outlined. “The other thing that we do see is people that have issues with paying for food.”

On the reach of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — the percentage of those 60 and older living in poverty who receive benefits — Nebraska ranks 39th among states.

Horsley pointed out affordable housing for seniors is also a huge problem in their 14-county area.

One of the bright spots is the number of Nebraskans who are good neighbors and willing to help. Horsley said the senior center in Comstock is a great example.

“They have done outreach to people out in the country, taking meals to Sargent, Neb.,” Horsley said. “Those people wouldn’t otherwise get a meal if it wasn’t for the senior center director and volunteers there that are willing to drive out, 10 miles into the country, to ensure that this person has a meal.”

Nebraska ranks 13th in the report for the percentage of seniors who volunteer.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer and executive vice president of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, called the report a “call to action,” and said many U.S. seniors lost ground socioeconomically between 2021-22.

“This year, we saw poverty increase 6% nationally,” Randall emphasized. “We also saw the housing cost burden rise 3% nationally. That means 741,000 additional households where older adults live are struggling with their housing costs.”

Almost 11% of seniors nationwide were living in poverty in 2022. In Nebraska, the percentage was 9.2%, a 28% increase since 2017.

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