CASPER, Wyo. — Between 2010 and 2021, the aging population in Wyoming, which includes those ages 65 and over, increased 47% while the state’s total population grew just 2%, according to the 2023 Wyoming Healthy Aging Data Report.

Published on Aug. 25, the report includes 23 county profiles, each with 130 healthy aging indicators and maps with alphabetical and ranked lists of indicators by county. The indicators provide a comprehensive picture of health outcomes and factors that contribute to healthy aging in the Cowboy State. The data reveals important patterns of disease, health behaviors, resource distribution and disparities in aging.

The report was created by researchers at the Gerontology Institute of the University of Massachusetts-Boston led by Elizabeth Dugan, in partnership with the Wyoming Healthy Aging Coalition and coordinated by professor emeritus Virginia Vincenti at the University of Wyoming.

“Our aspiration is that this information can help inform policy and service delivery,” Dugan said.

Housing and Health Findings

Laramie County has the highest number of residents ages 60 and over with over 22,000, followed by Natrona County, which has 17,000, and Fremont County, which has 10,000, the report states. Niobrara County has roughly 700 residents ages 60 and over.

The highest percentages of population over age 65 in Wyoming belong to Hot Springs, 27%; Johnson, 25%; Platte, 24%; and Park County, 23%. Campbell County, 10%, and Albany County, 11.8%, have the state’s lowest percentages.

When it comes to the living conditions of the more than 95,000 people in Wyoming ages 65 and over, 30% spend more than one-third of their income on housing, more than 25% live alone and 9.4% have independent living difficulty, the report states.

The Healthy Aging Data Report shows that the Cowboy State has a lower rate of Alzheimer’s and related dementias with cancer than its neighboring states among those ages 65 and over. The state, however, ranked close to the other regional states in the categories of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and those ages 65 and over with heart disease.

High blood pressure is the most common chronic disease for Wyomingites in that age demographic, as 42% report living with hypertension. Other rates of chronic disease in Wyoming include arthritis, 27%; high cholesterol, 26%; heart disease 21%; and diabetes, 20%.

Researchers suggest there is an association between socioeconomic status and better or worse health rates. For instance, Teton County, with a median income of $95,413, and Laramie County, with an income of $52,955, both have the highest number of health indicators that are better than the state average. Big Horn, which has a median income of $35,663, and Weston, which has an income of $32,500, have the most health indicators that are worse than the state average.

More Research to Come

Inspiration to create the report started in 2010, when Vincenti was studying elder abuse and financial exploitation. Vincenti met Dugan at a gerontology conference and heard about her Healthy Aging reports. The two made plans to create one specific to Wyoming.

“I’m thinking, “Wow, this sounds really helpful,'” Vincenti said. “This would really add to our qualitative data, to some of those variables [that] affect whether people abuse and whether they are healthy in a larger sense.”

The researchers waited years before they could secure funding, which was eventually provided by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources.

The 2023 report is a first step in building the Wyoming Integrated Statistical Environment, or WISE, which is 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, Dugan said.