AARP: 50+ Folk Say Health 'Mixed'

Hundreds of couples donned sailor's hats and nurse's caps and smooched in Times Square Aug. 14, 2010, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.
A declining number of Americans over 50 say that they're in good overall health, while obesity and lack of health insurance continue to rise among American seniors, according to a report released Monday by AARP.

The annual report shows some modest improvements in seniors' rates of physical activity and access to prescription drug coverage. But overall, the group paints a picture of seniors' health care it calls "mixed" in part because of declining insurance rates and rising obesity.

Looking back over the last decade, economic indictors show some improvement in the well-being of people over 50, although progress, where it existed, was often slow and uneven, says the report.

Less than 47% of U.S. residents over 50 described their overall health as "very good" or "excellent" in the survey. The number of adults aged 50-64 reporting "very good" or "excellent" overall health fell from 54.5% in 2001 to 53.9% in 2002. Thirty-two percent of seniors 75 and older reported "very good" or "excellent" health status, down nearly a percentage point from the year before.

The percent who engage in physical activity was slightly more popular among the 50-plus population in 2002 than in 1998, though still only one-quarter of Americans over 50 participate in regular exercise, the report shows. It also shows that the increase was entirely due to an increase among the 75-plus age group.

At the same time, just 35.4% of the entire over-50 population was not either overweight or obese in 2002, down more than 4% from 1998. The group described the trend as a "disturbing drop" that "suggests a looming health problem" for the nation's seniors and mirrors the unhealthy trend toward obesity in the overall population.