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In report, mixed news on health of area baby boomers; Chronic conditions listed as key concern

Western New York has about 110,000 baby boomers in their early 60s, and the good news is that three-quarters rate their own health as good or better.

The bad news is that more than half have suffered from at least one major chronic health condition, notably heart disease, cancer, stroke or high blood pressure.

And there are mixed results when it comes to upstate New Yorkers in their early 60s taking preventive health steps such as cancer screening, pneumonia vaccinations and moderate to vigorous exercise.

Those are among the findings in a report labeled "The Facts About Turning 65 in Upstate New York," being released today by Univera Healthcare.

The report defines baby boomers as Americans born between 1946 and 1964. By that definition, the oldest boomers are turning 65 this year.

"Today's 65-year-olds can expect to live an additional 19 years, which is about five years longer than was expected for an individual of similar age in 1946, the first year of the baby boom," stated Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera's chief medical officer.

Vienne then added the obvious postscript: "But with aging comes a host of acute and chronic health conditions."

The study suggests what most people here know: that boomers represent a relatively high proportion of the local population. The percentage of Western New Yorkers between 60 and 65 is listed at 9.2 percent.

What may be surprising, though, is that that figure is slightly below the upstate average of 9.5 percent.

Broken down by regions, the percentage of the population between 60 and 65 is a whopping 10.8 percent in the Southern Tier, 9.8 percent in Central New York and 9.7 in the Utica/North Country region, according to the report.

Upstate is a lot grayer than downstate, though, as the statewide figure for 60- to 65-year-olds is 8.5 percent.

Western New Yorkers have had slightly more chronic health conditions than other upstate regions. The report says 52.1 percent of Western New Yorkers in that age range have had a chronic health condition, defined as heart disease, cancer, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, stroke or diabetes.

The upstate average is 49.5 percent, while the statewide figure is 45.8 percent.

As for preventive steps, the report suggests upstate New Yorkers are fairly close to meeting target rates for some tests, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings. But the figures lag significantly in other categories, such as physical activity and flu and pneumonia vaccinations.

The report is based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey "Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," considered the largest ongoing telephone health survey worldwide.

Univera officials said Monday that such reports are not promotional or marketing tools. Instead, they said, the reports represent the latest health information presented in an unbiased way.

"It's an informational tool for the public," said Peter Kates, vice president of communications. "We do fact sheets throughout the year on topics of interest. Then we put them on our website for the general public to access."