A comparison of the survey responses from 2004 and 2008 indicates only a few areas of significant change over those four years. Among the areas that were statistically significant are the following:
- A decline between the two years from 35 percent to 29 percent of respondents who reported themselves as widowed.
- A five percent increase, from 15 percent to 20 percent, of respondents with a four-year college degree.
- A 17 percent increase of those who reported being told by their doctor that they had hypertension or high blood pressure.
- A five percent increase of those who reported being told by their doctor that they had diabetes.
- An increase in the percentage of those who reported three or more chronic health conditions.
- A decline in the percentage of respondents indicating regular participation in physical activity.
- An increase in the percentage, from 24 to 29 percent, of those who reported being obese.
- An increase from 18 to 23 percent of those who reported being told by their doctor that they have depression and an increase from eight to 13 percent who were told that they have anxiety or panic disorder.
- An increase from 70 percent to 85 percent who said that their health insurance paid for at least part of their prescription drugs (due largely to the addition of part D coverage under Medicare).
- An increase in the percentage of those surveyed who were aware of the 2-1-1 system.
- An eight percent increase, up to 22 percent in 2008, of those who said the cost of operating a car is a barrier.
In most other areas the changes from 2004 to 2008 were not statistically significant. In some cases the lack of change indicates the continuation of possible problems. For example, Social Security retirement remains the biggest source of income for most respondent and most (56 percent in 2008) spent at least one-third of their income on housing costs. Also, 18 percent reported in 2008 that they provided care for a family member over the age of 60 or to a child 18 years of age or younger, or both. In addition, in the focus area of social engagement, no improvement occurred in the proportion of respondents who said that loneliness was at least a minor problem, remaining at 25 percent.
Looking ahead, policymakers and planners will need to anticipate how a trend such as the increase in obesity will impact the health of older Texans in the future along with the related health care costs. Greater awareness of the problem and education may help reduce the consequences of such trends.
Even when the percentages in a given category are relatively static from one survey to the next, and even if they remain steady in the years to come, these proportions will translate into larger numbers of actual persons. According to the Texas State Data Center and Office of the State Demographer, in 2000 the number of Texans 65 and older was slightly higher than two million, but by 2020 the number will be nearly 3.5 million. In 2000 this group comprised 9.9 percent of the state’s population, but in 2020 it will rise to 14.2 percent. State policymakers and planners will need to consider the impact of the certain growth of this population as we strive to assure that Texas is a place where aging well is a priority.
One limitation to this study is that respondents were limited to older Texans with their own landline telephones, who were willing and able to participate. Persons living in institutions, such as nursing facilities and some assisted living facilities, may not have their own phones. Some people have no phone service, and others use only cell phones. Some declined to participate and others were unable to complete the interview. As a result, the survey may have excluded some people with poor health and functional limitations, some with low incomes, and some who were particularly protective of their privacy. This may impact the responses. Care should be taken to be sensitive to areas that might be under- or over-estimated by excluding these portions of the population.
In future iterations of the study, some modifications and additions to the questions will be appropriate. In particular, questions about the impact of internet usage on the various areas of focus should be included. Questions concerning health insurance and
prescription drug coverage should be structured around available programs.
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April 11, 2012