WEST GOSHEN — “The minute we are born, we are all aging,” Teresa Osbourne, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, told elected state representatives from all corners of the Commonwealth, during Tuesday’s conference on aging.
The hearing held at the township building was a gathering of the House Democratic Policy Committee and was hosted by Carolyn Comitta, D-156. The topic was “Age-Friendly Communities — Shaping a Brighter Future for All.”
Osborne noted that the State Plan on Aging carries out the objectives of the Older Americans Act. Funding of critical services is intended to keep older adults healthy and independent, and includes, meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, benefits enrollment and elder justice programs.
“We have a plan for Pennsylvania to put people first, which is what we are doing and should be doing,” Comitta said.
Osborne cited statistics on aging.
There are nearly 3 million aged 60 or older within the Commonwealth.
By the year 2020, one in four Keystone State residents will be over the age of 60. Every day in the United States, 10,000 Americans will celebrate their 65th birthday.
Pennsylvania ranks fourth among all states in the percentage of those 65 and older and second in the percentage of residents 85 and older.
Virginia Brown is director of the Bureau of Policy and Regulatory Management in the office of Long Term Living, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
She talked about the Department of Human Services Office of Long-Term Living, which administers programs and partners to support long –term living needs of older state residents and adults with physical disabilities.
Services available include, nursing services, respite services, personal assistance services, transportation, and durable medical equipment and supplies.
Many seniors want to stay in place, in a home or area where they’ve lived.
“These services are provided to individuals in the home or community-based setting of their choice, when possible, or in a nursing facility,” Brown said.
Karin Morris, associate director for Livable Communities, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, discussed small improvements that might make a huge difference.
“We can’t change age, but we can change the places we age in,” Morris said.
Morris talked about the basic need for benches where seniors can take a break when walking, or installation of sidewalks and making public restrooms readily available. Bus shelters and senior friendly public transportation are much needed, along with free rides on public transportation for seniors as is available on SEPTA, thanks in part to proceeds from the Pennsylvania Lottery.
“As this demographic trend plays out, there will be an increased demand for services providing care and support to Pennsylvania’s seniors,” Osborne said.
Pat Bokovitz, director the Chester County Department of Community Development, discussed senior transportation and housing.
He said the Rover service provides seniors rides for to core locations and doctor’s offices for a dollar, with 9,000 riders in August.
Housing costs are high in Chester County. The median rental runs $1,240 per month and homes average $355,000 each.
With a stay-in-home program, agencies will sometimes pick up the cost for one time major expenses like a roof or heater. The county also matches younger and older residents as housemates.