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Pennsylvania Lottery celebrates 50 years of winning and giving to seniors

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By Linda Thompson, Adams County Office for Aging, Inc. Community Services Director

If you watch the evening news on TV, you’re familiar with the ritual – the music swells, the ping-pong balls swirl inside their glass cases, and the jingle singers burst forth with “The Pennsylvania Lottery!”

But did you know the lottery is turning 50 this year?

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the sale of the very first PA Lottery ticket — which cost 50 cents. Established by law in 1971, the program has changed and grown, offering more than 35 different games during the past 50 years including Powerball, a multi-state jackpot game.

The program also introduced us to Gus, the second most famous groundhog in PA.

Regardless of your feelings about legalized gambling or Gus, the good news for Adams County seniors is that Pennsylvania remains the only state lottery that designates all proceeds for programs that benefit older residents. Since 1972, thanks to all who play, over $32.6 billion has been contributed to those programs.

What does it all mean for seniors?

The benefits to those 65 and over include property tax and rent rebates; free and reduced-fare transportation services; the prescription assistance programs called PACE and PACENET; care services; and local services provided by the 52 Area Agencies on Aging including the Adams County Office of Aging (ACOFA)

For transportation through the rabbittransit shared ride program, it means the lottery pays 85 percent of the cost of any trip anywhere in the county for any person age 65 or older who is registered to ride. For certain “necessary trips” (medical appointment, pharmacy, grocery store, senior or adult day center, bank, laundromat, or human service agency) OCOFA pays the remaining 15 percent so there is no charge to the rider. For any other trip (out to lunch, shopping, visiting, movie theater, etc.) the rider pays the 15% fee. That’s a pretty great deal and rabbittransit does a terrific job of moving people around our county and neighboring counties.

Under the PACE and PACENET programs it means the maximum co-payment for a prescription is $15. If you use an inhaler or eye drops, take Eliquis, Tresiba, or other expensive brand name medicines, you know what a help that is.

At ACOFA it means a small but mighty staff of 13 full and 5 part time people are working each day, answering the phone, seeing people at the Gettysburg office, in the six senior centers and out at the homes of older adults receiving services.

Anyone age 60+ can come in for general information and assistance, receive answers to Medicare questions, get help completing a Property Tax/Rent Rebate or PACE application, request an assessment for in-home services by a Care Manager, participate in a senior center or caregiver support group and many other services. For a complete list, please visit our website at www.acofa.org

Some services are provided using a sliding fee scale and some have income eligibility requirements, but many are available just because a person is 65+ and thanks to the PA Lottery.

ACOFA’s budget is a combination of federal, state and local funds. Much of that money comes to us designated for a particular program. Since not all services fall within the categories funded under the Lottery list, we are very grateful for the donations and grants we receive that allow us to provide additional services and support. We are especially grateful for the volunteers who assist with so many efforts that could never be covered by our small staff.

So if you play, we thank you. If you play in the future, we also thank you. As our former director used to say – “even if you don’t win, we do!”

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