The Master Plan for Aging that Pennsylvania is creating is designed “to help transform the infrastructure for older Pennsylvanians,” Lancaster County Office of Aging Executive Director Tom Martin said Thursday.
Martin was speaking at an input session held at the Lititz Senior Center at the United Methodist Church. It was the third of six scheduled in the county; the fourth took place Friday, and the last two are scheduled next week.
- Related: Interested in Pa.’s strategy for serving its older citizens? Offer your input at an upcoming listening session
In a welcome video that Martin played, state Aging Secretary Jason Kavulich said his department is developing the plan in response to an executive order issued by Gov. Josh Shapiro. It is envisioned as “living, breathing data” that’s “not just put on a shelf, but placed in the center of the table” in terms of government use, he said.
Martin and his co-presenter, Office of Aging Deputy Director Kristin Jones, identified eight relevant “domains” contemplated in the master plan:
- Outdoor spaces
- Civic participation &employment
- Communication & information
- Respect & socialization
- Social participation
- Health services
Martin mentioned a ninth: Protective Services, which responds to cases of reported suspected abuse and neglect.
Having closed the initial presentation, Martin and Jones heard from the seven seniors in attendance.
Transportation was a major concern. Attendees complained earnestly about limited bus routes and the long rides that result.
An older person can’t be on a bus with no bathroom for two hours, they said. Sometimes a senior is on the bus when it’s time to take their medication, which creates complications. It’s not a feasible alternative to depending on friends and family, which, they noted, only goes so far.
One described the service between Denver and Lititz as “ridiculous,” saying the drive is only 18 miles, whereas the bus route feels more like 50 miles. It eats up a lot of time.
Seniors also mentioned calling dispatch and getting no answer and bad experiences with pickups and dropoffs.
“You’re relinquishing your power. You’re now vulnerable,” one of them said.
Asked how they get news and information, they said they primarily rely on television. If a notification is pushed out via smart phone alerts or the Internet, seniors are likely to miss it, they said.
In terms of housing, they mentioned property taxes as a major concern. Rents are rising as well, one respondent said: “The economy is no longer the economy of three years ago.”
They talked about mental health issues that affect seniors, from loneliness to post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
One bright spot was the operation of the Lititz Senior Center, which serves up to 55 people a day. Seniors discussed the changing nomenclature of these services, with more places calling themselves an “adult day care” or “adult day center.” They said names and labels should be clear, separating centers for the elderly from those for adults with disabilities.
One senior called the Farmers Market Nutrition Voucher Program “fantastic” and praised the decision to increase the amount from $24 to $50.
“That’s a need of many seniors that I know,” she said. “… It is used, It’s good.”
Seniors also appreciate the delivery of ‘snowbound’ emergency packages that include food, she said. And she said she hopes long-term funding can be secured for a once-a-month art program that was initially funded by COVID money.
“I like coming to the center and painting with other people,” she said.
All of the input gleaned from 192 sessions across the state will be put into the hopper as the plan is drafted. Shapiro’s executive order calls for it to be completed by February 2024.