As the State Unit on Aging, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) is responsible for providing the leadership necessary to develop, implement, and administer a State Plan on Aging in accordance with all Federal statutory and regulatory requirements. PDA is required to submit its State Plan on Aging to the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (ACL). The state plan carries out the complementary objectives of the Older Americans Act (as amended and reauthorized in 2016), ACL, and the commonwealth. PDA submits a State Plan on Aging every four years in order to provide a vision and direction for Pennsylvania’s network of aging services. This plan will be effective from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2020.
PDA is responsible for serving as an effective and visible advocate for older Pennsylvanians and coordinating all state activities related to the purposes of the Older Americans Act. In order to uphold these responsibilities, PDA laid out core principles that will guide the operation of the organization over the course of the next four years. Mission, Foundation, Values, and Goals – these principles, first and foremost, are crucial to understanding the vision that PDA has for aging services in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The plan embraces two key initiatives: Aging in Place and Elder Justice.
In designing the State Plan on Aging, the department sought to create a document and an approach that are responsive and responsible, considered the needs of the people we serve, and continued to incorporate their feedback. PDA created and carried out a process which solicited input from the entire spectrum of stakeholders – department staff, consumers of services, caregivers, professionals, and anyone who had an interest in the future of aging services. The department convened internal workgroups and a series of facilitated conversations, held seven community listening forums throughout the commonwealth to hear about how aging services are or are not fulfilling the needs of older Pennsylvanians, released a draft state plan, and received testimony on that plan at three public hearings. Additionally, Pennsylvania residents were able to submit feedback through an online survey, via email, regular mail, or even call in by phone.
All of this feedback made it possible to craft a plan that was truly considerate of the needs of Pennsylvania’s older adults and those who serve them. The core vision for the plan resonated with those who provided feedback. PDA heard repeated calls for innovation and collaboration, as well as recognition of the importance of Aging in Place and Elder Justice. PDA received valuable input on what needed to improve, all of which has been incorporated into the plan.
Pennsylvania has a diverse population of older adults with different needs, and the aging services network must be prepared to effectively serve those needs. The commonwealth is home to more than 12.8 million residents. Of these, approximately 2.9 million are adults age 60 and older, and more than 300,000 are aged 85 and older. By 2020, the population of older Pennsylvanians is projected to increase by 25%, and the population of Pennsylvanians aged 80 and over is projected to increase by 20,000 individuals.
The Department of Aging was created by Pennsylvania’s Act 70 of 1978, which established “a cabinet-level State agency whose jurisdiction, powers, and duties specifically concern and are directed to advancing the well-being of Pennsylvania’s older citizens.” It further established that PDA would “serve as an advocate for the aging at all levels of government.”
In conjunction with administering the Older Americans Act and the Administration for Community Living Discretionary Grants, PDA coordinates a comprehensive array of services that benefit older Pennsylvanians, their families, their caregivers, and the aging network. These services are made available primarily through a network of 52 local Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), which are responsible for planning, developing, and implementing a system of services for persons age 60 and over in their respective planning and service areas.
The aging network is also composed of senior community centers, adult daily living centers, and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). These linkages are crucial to the delivery of services and the well-being of older Pennsylvanians. Senior community centers promote socialization, engagement, and a positive quality of life. Adult daily living centers provide social, recreational, therapeutic, and nutritional support. ADRCs improve access to long-term care supports, expanding the use of community-based solutions, promoting consumer-directed decision making through person-centered counseling, and improving the quality of services regardless of an individual’s age, physical or developmental disability, or ability to pay.
PDA also benefits from several advisory councils, such as the Pennsylvania Council on Aging and the Cultural Diversity Advisory Council, which provide recommendations on aging services, diversity, inclusion, and other long-term care issues. Additionally, beginning in the fall of 2016 the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council will be initiated in order to advise the Secretary of Aging on topics ranging from facility-based care to home and community-based service systems.
PDA facilitates the provision of important aging services, including caregiver support, employment, health and wellness, help at home, housing, insurance, legal assistance, meals, ombudsman, prescriptions, protective services, and transportation. The 2016-20 State Plan on Aging recognizes the role of each of these services and lays out an approach to improving their provision in the goals, objectives, strategies, and performance measures.
The state plan also accounts for several ongoing initiatives that touch aging services in Pennsylvania, including Community HealthChoices (a managed care long-term services and supports program), the State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management and Efficiency (GO-TIME), the Governor’s Food Security Partnership, the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, and the Affordable Care Act.
There are four state plan goals – promote existing services, improve access to services, enhance quality of services, and empower the workforce. These are designed to encompass all initiatives that the department will undertake to improve aging services in Pennsylvania. As conditions change, the department may find it necessary to retool its approach to certain services. An objective may need to be reshaped, or some strategies may not work and will need to be replaced by new ones, but the goals are comprehensive and will provide a lasting way of thinking about the department’s initiatives.