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Agencies Face New Challenges in Supporting Seniors Amid Changing Social Landscape

The evolving social dynamics present a range of obstacles for state and local agencies striving to provide assistance to senior citizens. Testifying before the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, officials highlighted the growing trend of grandparents assuming primary caregiving roles for their grandchildren due to issues such as parental substance abuse, mental illness, and incarceration.

In addition to this, there is a significant number of adults juggling responsibilities of caring for both their children and elderly parents. These shifting family dynamics have made the Department of Aging’s mission more intricate than ever before.

JR Reed, board chair for the PA Association of Area Agencies on Aging, noted the changing generations, with the Baby Boomers expressing their preferences more openly compared to the silent generation. Reed emphasized the need to adapt to these evolving demands.

Representative Justin Fleming, D-Harrisburg, shared his firsthand experiences as a mental health and child advocate encountering grandparents raising their grandchildren. He expressed the need for increased support and services for this population, emphasizing that familial relationships should not be a barrier to receiving assistance.

Karen Leonovich, the director of policy and programs at the PA Association of Area Agencies on Aging, suggested expanding the state’s caregiver program as a potential solution to alleviate the pressures faced by families balancing caregiving responsibilities for both children and elderly individuals. She emphasized that addressing this societal issue requires coordination among various stakeholders.

Staffing and funding were identified as major challenges in addressing these issues. The sheer number of seniors, representing about a quarter of Pennsylvania’s population, is straining infrastructure and resources. Representative Mike Jones, R-York, expressed concerns regarding staffing shortages in nursing and caregiver roles, stating that the situation may have already reached a crisis level.

The governor’s proposed budget includes a $10 million increase in funding from the lottery, which Leonovich stated would be allocated for staffing purposes. Currently, a quarter of the Department of Aging’s funding comes from the federal government’s Older Americans Act, with the remainder sourced from the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Officials also highlighted the increasing vulnerability of the senior population to financial scams. As individuals age, they become more susceptible to exploitation, requiring the involvement of legal and financial departments throughout the state. Scammers are continually developing new tactics, preying on seniors with enticing promises, such as space burials or fake cryptocurrency investments.

David Shallcross, director of the Attorney General’s Senior Protection Unit, emphasized the creativity of scams and the need to remain vigilant. He shared various examples, including personal experiences with his own father, highlighting the importance of awareness and protective measures.

As the number of seniors, particularly those aged 85 and above, continues to rise, the challenges faced by state and local agencies are expected to intensify. The complex task of safeguarding the senior population extends beyond traditional aging services, necessitating comprehensive strategies to address their evolving needs.


Kitty D Hann 1938-2024

At 18 years of age, Kitty was recruited to work for the Dept. of the Navy in Washington, D.C., where she resided in an all-girl’s boarding house. She created lifelong friendships there.

John Eugene Walck 1933-2024

Mr. Walck worked proudly for Hagerstown Canteen Vending Service for 50 years, retiring in 2003. He enjoyed the outdoors, trap shooting, and collecting trains.

Justin L. Nichols 1981-2024

Justin enjoyed hunting, fishing, spending time around a camp fire, time spent with family and friends and living life to the fullest.

Robert “Bob” Rhoten 1933-2024

After he left the military, Bob worked several data entry jobs. After 10 years of service to the Federal Government, he retired in his early 70’s.

Nina Fegan 1947-2024

Nina graduated from St. Joseph’s Nursing School in Lancaster, PA as a Registered Nurse. She enjoyed puzzles, reading and vacationing in Cape May, NJ.

Duane Lee Bidlack 1938-2024

Duane earned a Bachelor’s degree from Tri-State College and later a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State University.

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