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New Report Says Santa Monica Seniors Can Expect to Live Longer Than County Peers

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

September 21, 2015 -- Santa Monica residents age 50 and older can expect to live to 85, more than five years longer than the average life span of 79 and a half in South Los Angeles, according to a new report on the county's aging population.

Moreover, as they age, Santa Monica seniors will have far greater access to medical care than  their peers in South L.A., where there are 49 doctors per every 100,000 residents, said the report released this past week by the USC Edward Roybal Institute on Aging.

By comparison, in the county's West Service Planning Area (West SPA), which includes Santa Monica, the ratio is 1,100 doctors for every 100,000 residents, according to “Los Angeles Healthy Living Report 2015,” which spotlights differences in senior health and care access.

For planning purposes, county officials break the region into separate areas to better identify resources within those communities, as well as needs, said the report. The West SPA covers West Los Angeles, including Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, Playa del Rey and Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Culver City.

Of the county's eight Service Planning Areas, older residents in the West SPA are the healthiest, according to the report. West Los Angeles residents 50 and older have the fewest incidents of major diseases, including diabetes and arthritis, the report said.

Along with more doctors, West Los Angeles also has the highest number of dentist in the county, 225 for every 100,000 residents, compared to 30 dentists for every 100,000 Antelope Valley residents and 11 per every 100,000 residents in South L.A., the report said.

The area also has 1,234 health professionals per every 100,000 residents. Those health providers include registered nurses, respiratory care practitioners, occupational therapists, psychologists and licensed clinical social workers.

“Access to health care professionals affects the ability to obtain preventive care and manage chronic health conditions,” which impacts seniors' health overall, the report said.

Researchers also analyzed income levels, expected retirement ages, homeownership and other “factors for healthy aging.” Analyzing median income, which affects both the age at which seniors retire and the quality of their retirement, the study found the median income of older residents in West Los Angeles is 2.5 times greater than in South Los Angeles, the report said.

For West L.A. residents age 50 to 64, the median income is $85,000, compared to $34,000 in South L.A. and $43,000 in the City of Los Angeles.

The study also found the perception of feeling safe in their neighborhoods was highest among West Los Angeles residents 50 and older, with 98 percent saying they felt safe in regards to crime.

In addition, 84 percent of West L.A. residents said they receive the social and emotional support they need. Only 54 percent and 51 percent of residents in South L.A. and East L.A., respectively, were able to say the same.

Countywide, the report found a dramatically expanding older population. Simply put, county residents are living longer, with the average life expectancy increasing from 75.8 years in 1991 to 81.5 years in 2011.

Meanwhile, the county's mortality rate declined 18 percent during the same period, compared to 13 percent for the nation, the report said.

Residents in the county are dying in fewer numbers from heart disease, which declined by 41 percent in the past 20 years; stroke, which declined by 36 percent, and lung disease, which has decreased by 20 percent in the county, the report said.

At the same time, however, the county's mortality rate from Alzheimer's disease has doubled over the past 20 years, researchers found.

Because people are living longer, another looming challenge facing the county is a shrinking worker-to-retiree ratio, expected to shift dramatically in the next 20 years, the report found.

The ratio of 5.2 workers per retiree in 2016 will drop to just 2.9 workers per retiree by 2036, “raising questions about the financial security of future generations,” the report said.

“Uncertainties surrounding the long-term funding of economic safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare could also exacerbate the situation,” said the report.

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