Pa Dept. of Aging seeks input

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is seeking input from seniors and people with disabilities across the state to inform a 10-year Master Plan for Older Adults.

The plan was established through an executive order Gov. Josh Shapiro signed in May and is designed to “help states transform the infrastructure and coordination of services for their older adult and disabled populations.”

PA dept. of aging

The development of the plan was driven by several factors. According to the Department of Aging, Pennsylvania’s older adult population is growing more than 20 times faster than its general population. The state’s elderly population (3.4 million) is ranked fifth in the nation, and Pennsylvania has one of the largest populations of people with disabilities (11%). Pennsylvania will be the 12th state in the U.S. to develop such a plan, according to the department.

The Adams County Office for Aging has held several listening sessions about the plan this year, including one held last week at the offices of Destination Gettysburg. About 30 people, including residents and representatives from local human services organizations, attended to share concerns about various issues including internet and technology access, transportation, healthcare, and socialization for older residents.

The need for more affordable housing, including greater availability of assisted living facilities and addressing the property tax issue, was one issue raised during the session. Steve Niebler, who moderated the session and worked for many years as executive director of the county’s Office for Aging, said he remembers property tax reform being a major issue several decades ago and has remained so ever since. Several groups, including At Home in Adams County, have been working to address housing in the county, but it remains a concern.

Other issues expressed at the listening session included the need for more home healthcare workers, more medical specialties in the county, and greater availability and accessibility of public transportation.

Several attendees also stressed the need to reach out to older residents who do not have access to the internet, or who prefer not to use technology, to ensure their feedback is included.

Linda Thompson, community services director for the Office for Aging, said her team has been pleased with the turnout and the conversation at the sessions.

“It has been very interesting and people are thinking creatively,” she said. Specifically about Wednesday’s session, Thompson said she was “impressed with the suggestions and insight provided on topics like housing, healthcare, and helping people to connect with each other.

“Unfortunately, some solutions require legislation and not just a strategic plan by the Department of Aging, but at least it will get the issues in front of the state agency,” she said.

To learn more about the Master Plan for Older Adults or to submit feedback, visit aging.pa.gov/MasterPlan or call the Adams County Office for Aging at 717-334-9296. Feedback forms are also available at the Office for Aging at 318 W. Middle St., Gettysburg.

Ashley Andyshak Hayes is a nonfiction writer based in Pennsylvania. She earned a B.A. in Communication from Messiah College and an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. She has been a staff writer at the Gettysburg Times and the Frederick News-Post, and has contributed feature stories to the Gettysburg Companion, Frederick Magazine and Penn Lines.

She lives in Gettysburg with her husband, fellow writer Alex J. Hayes, and their two dogs, and is a member of Revolution Ice Unity, Central Pennsylvania’s only independent adult synchronized skating team.

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