Perhaps all you can recollect when it comes to New Mexico is the frequent setup gag incurred by Bugs Bunny wherein our poor little friend is seemingly always making a wrong turn at Albuquerque. But more seriously, what is the Land of Enchantment really all about? Is it true that this state has the potential to be a bigger and better retirement destination than that of its more well-known neighbor, Arizona?
Well, maybe not just yet, but the state is growing in popularity and investing in long-term safety measures that could improve overall medical response times for both seniors and the general adult population.
Speaking of population, New Mexico recently saw one of the fastest rates of growth for those aged 65 and older, at 32 percent over the past two decades. In the past year alone, seniors went from being 15.2 percent of the overall populace to 16.5 percent, which equates to just over 344,000 older adults. Sadly, 41,000 of those folks are living below the poverty line and are hard-pressed to find affordable health care.
The government of New Mexico is looking to extend care and even goes so far as to offer Silver Alert, which acts in much the same way as the standard Amber Alert. It notifies all first responders throughout the state when anyone over the age of 50 goes missing or has wandered off due to Alzheimer’s or similar conditions.
Safety is of top concern for New Mexico residents, government officials and medical personnel. In 2013 alone, there were 3,705 burglaries and car thefts for every 100,000 residents of the state. What’s more, there are only two million citizens that call the Enchantment State home. This means that one out of every 20 folks could find themselves in an emergency situation.
Without a medical alert device or similar mechanism, older folks might encounter wait times of 22 minutes just to be seen, 106 minutes spent transferring to more long-term care, or 151 minutes being told they must go home. New Mexico is by no means well-connected, either. With Santa Fe and Albuquerque both centrally located, there is no telling how long you might have to wait if you are in a roadside collision, or worse.
The increasing rate of crime continues to strain the relatively underfunded healthcare industry, which was previously operating on less than an annual budget of $7,500 per capita. To put this in perspective, New Mexico only invested more than seven other states in the U.S. It is none-too-surprising, then, that U.S. News ranked New Mexico #31 for overall healthcare with a quality ranking of 33. McKinsey & Company supported these findings with a 24th place finish for access to health care driven primarily by adults’ dental visit scores (37th), older adult checkup quality (45th), affordability scores (30th) and insurance enrollment rates (35th).
WalletHub also gave the state poor marks for quality of life (42nd) and health care affordability (39th). Much of this has to do with the increase in senior folks moving to the state. This has caused the ratio of patients to physicians to dip to 233 for every 100,000 persons, which is well below the national average of 261 doctors for every 100,000 folks.
Despite the poor overall health ratings in New Mexico, the government does recognize that there are a number of areas in which it can improve and empower the populace. For example, in 2004, the state created the Aging and Long-Term Services Department to not only combat issues with medical monitoring, but also behavioral issues that often go ignored.
This tiny division has done a great deal of good in offering nutrition assistance to older adults, prescription drug assistance, legal advice hotline, healthy aging education campaigns, ongoing education initiatives, community information bulletins, caregiver networks and adult protective services. The department has even gone so far as to set up the Silver Alert program, as well as create a Medicare patrol service to root out fraudulent scams.
The Land of Enchantment might not seem so enchanting at first blush. Still, one might want to consider New Mexico if they are looking for overall affordability in housing and tax breaks, as well as a destination without the crowds, as can be the case in senior-friendly Arizona. New Mexico offers a lot culturally and is a natural wonder that can boost a senior’s happiness level and overall quality of life. Older folks should consider long-range monitoring devices, however, if they plan to live outside of Santa Fe or Albuquerque, as some regions can still seem quite desolate.
The state is still improving its many health care services, but this must also occur alongside reductions in crime. That said, seniors looking to make a move to the Southwest should keep their safety at the forefront of their minds. And, of course, avoid making a wrong turn at Albuquerque!