May 30, 2023

Pennsylvania to develop Master Plan for Older Adults with industry input

McKnights Senior Living

Pennsylvania aging services industry advocates and other stakeholders are gathering input after Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) signed an executive order Thursday creating a Master Plan for Older Adults to address state infrastructure and service coordination. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is charged with developing a 10-year, state-led, stakeholder-driven strategic plan by Feb. 1. The state agency is seeking input from older adults and their families, caregivers and community leaders on ideas that support the ability of older adults to stay in their communities; address disparities based on demographic, economic and geographic differences; allow for person-centered planning; and reframe how state officials and programs think about, talk about and value older adults.

With a growing aging population, the plan will “plot a course of action” to serve older adults in the years to come, Pennsylvania Health Care Association President and CEO Zach Shamberg said. The Keystone State is home to 3.4 million older adults, ranking it fifth highest for older adult populations in the country. 

“We must prepare now to ensure we can sustain care and meet the needs of those we are committed to serving — and that includes decisive action from our state and federal governments,” Shamberg told McKnight’s Senior Living. “For many years in Pennsylvania, the plan seemed to be to do nothing, because we were simply willing to accept the status quo. But we now have leadership — and a unique opportunity — to develop a plan that can support all of us in the years to come.”

The Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association told McKnight’s Senior Living that the group has advocated for years for a plan for aging as the population of older adults continues to increase in the commonwealth.

“This plan will strategically prepare the Commonwealth for meeting the needs of older adults,” immediate past Executive Director Margie Zelenak and Executive Director Susan Saxinger said in a joint statement. “Our members play an important role in the long-term care continuum, and PALA will advocate to include them in the master plan for aging and disabilities.”

They called the plan an “actionable approach” that will keep dignity and personal choice at the forefront.

LeadingAge Pennsylvania’s CEO said that the association is encouraged to see that calls for action to ensure that older adults have robust care and support systems are being addressed.

“It is vital, however, that the Master Plan for Older Adults being developed focuses on ensuring a healthy and vibrant aging services ecosystem and that all parts of the care continuum are deemed essential and worthy of support,” LeadingAge Pennsylvania President and CEO Garry Pezzano told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We urge all those involved to remember that adequate funding is a key component, whether it is to help older Pennsylvanians remain in their homes, expand community options by providing Medicaid coverage for assisted living, or ensuring access to skilled nursing care is available when remaining at home is not the best option.”

The plan aims to include proposals with “quick wins, aspirational goals and tangible initiatives.” Some of those initiatives will affect the direct care workforce, housing, accessibility and transportation, according to state officials.

All three associations have seats on the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council, which will help develop the master plan. PHCA also will host the Department of Aging at a June listening session.

Area Agencies on Aging and Centers for Independent Living also will host listening sessions to provide information about the plan and solicit input. All levels of government will be involved in identifying plan goals, opportunities and challenges.

Pennsylvania joins 11 other states that are in the process of developing master plans for aging. Another five states — California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas — already are implementing such plans. 

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