Shapiro orders creation of 10-year plan to aid Pa.'s senior citizens

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May 26—SCRANTON — Gov. Josh Shapiro on Thursday signed an Executive Order formally directing the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to create a 10-year plan to develop and improve services for seniors and disabled Pennsylvanians.

Aging Secretary Jason Kavulich and Senior Advisor Kevin Hancock spoke of the plan and its pending development on May 9 at a meeting of the state Senate Aging & Youth Committee. Hancock is the plan's project manager.

Census Bureau statistics show that Pennsylvania has more than 3 million people age 60 or older, the fifth-largest total in the country. That figure is projected to grow to 4 million by 2030. The fastest-growing segment of the population based on age is 85 years and older.

The rapidly aging population risks overwhelming current supports for senior citizens and hiking the price to serve them. Pennsylvania's network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) is already struggling to keep up with service demand as providers struggle to retain a workforce to meet those needs.

Shapiro signed the order during a visit to the United Neighborhood Center in Scranton. The order makes Pennsylvania one of 11 states in the U.S. currently developing a 10-year plan. Five others have already implemented such plans, according to the governor's office.

"I've heard firsthand from seniors who told me we need to do more to help them stay in their homes, tackle rising costs, and have a high quality of life — and they deserve our full support," Shapiro said. "My administration is making a long-term commitment to our seniors with this master plan and my commonsense proposal to expand the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, which will put more money back in more Pennsylvanians' pockets. Together, we're going to continue delivering results and help our seniors receive the support they need in order to age with dignity."

Senior citizens served by the AAAs are often low-income and with disabilities and have increasing needs for adult care services including in-home care.

Shapiro's budget proposal includes a $10 million increase for the AAA network and its OPTIONS program for in-home assistance. The availability of in-home services — care management, meal delivery, personal care, more — helps seniors stay in their homes at a cost cheaper than institutionalized care.

Public input on the plan will be sought throughout the remainder of 2023 including at regional presentations hosted by one of Pennsylvania's 52 AAAs along with Centers for Independent Living.

The plan is likely to include initiatives to improve direct care and health care workforces along with housing and accessibility. Transportation, that is, the lack thereof, is another anticipated area to be addressed along with the expansion of broadband — either of which could help improve access to health care and other supports.