Do people in East Tennessee have shorter life expectancy?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It's a question that might catch you off guard: is life expectancy shorter for people in East Tennessee?

The Knoxville and Knox County Office on Aging said life expectancy could be lower for folks living in the area.

Susan Long, the Director of Knoxville and Knox County's Office on Aging, said the reason is hard to nail down, but one factor could be living alone.

"Isolation is a huge problem, and we know if a senior lives alone they're not interacting, they're not exercising, they're not keeping their mind sharp, it's a horrible thing," said Long.

The Office on Aging estimates the number of people older than 65 will reach nearly 107,000 by 2030, about 20 percent of the population, so even if you think living alone is best for you, Long said think again. Long said there's a possibility companions will become more important than ever.

"No one can take care of themselves forever by themselves, that's a very important thing to remember," said Long. "People think they're smart and healthy. Trust me, the day will come when you need the services of someone else."

A strong mind helps keep a strong body as well. Long said a problem in Knox County is falling—nearly 4,000 adults older than 65 fall every year.

"We have a huge number of falls in Knox County, and there's a fall prevention coalition right now because a lot of people are injured and don't recuperate from falls, but that all has to do with strength, lower and upper body strength and safety in the home," said Long.

Long said it's not just physical strength that's important, but also mental and emotional well-being. She said it's good to bounce ideas off of someone else before making important decisions, such as financial investments.

Long said if you need help, whether it's a hot meal, a job, or even someone to help out, the office on aging will be there for you. Asking for help could help you live a little longer.