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Pa. wants feedback on master plan for older residents

An elderly man is silhouetted by the setting sun as he walks on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019.
Vadim Ghirda
An elderly man is silhouetted by the setting sun as he walks on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is seeking input on its new strategic plan aimed at improving the lives of older Pennsylvanians. The agency will hold several public listening sessions, both online and in person.

The new master plan will guide the agency in its work over the next decade to make the state more livable for older residents. As part of that effort, Allegheny County’s Area Agency on Aging is partnering with the state to collect feedback from local stakeholders.

“This master plan is going to chart the vision and emphasis for government agencies, which will translate into policy and investment at the institutional and county-agency levels,” said Shannah Tharp Gilliam, who oversees Allegheny County’s aging services.

With 3.4 million older adults, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation for the largest aging population. As of 2020, residents aged 60 and up composed 17.8% of the state’s total population.

The plan will focus on issues these adults face, such as access to mental health services, direct-home care and housing. Gilliam said affordable housing is among the critical challenges seniors in Allegheny County face, along with a growing direct-care workforce crisis.

Gilliam said it’s important that the state collects a diversity of perspectives as it compiles its master plan. Older residents, caregivers supporting people over 60 and grandparents raising children under 18 are all encouraged to participate, as well as health care workers and social services agencies.

“The data are only going to be as good as the stories that people tell, the experiences that they bring,” she added.

County residents will have a first chance to weigh in this Thursday at the Persad Center in Lawrenceville. Additional listening sessions will be held at the following places:

  • Virtual Senior Academy/South Hills Jewish Community Center on August 25, 2023 at 1 p.m.
  • Human Services Building on September 12, 2023 at 10:00 AM and September 13, 2023 at 10 a.m.
  • AgeWell at the Jewish Community Center September 13, 2023 at 1:30 p.m.
  • LifeSpan McKeesport on September 15, 2023 at 10 a.m.

Additional virtual listening sessions will be held for residents statewide.

Jillian Forstadt