Pennsylvania Council on Aging Endorses Governor Wolf’s Restore PA Initiative
July 26, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that the Pennsylvania Council on Aging (PCoA) unanimously voted at its July meeting to support his Restore Pennsylvania plan to address critical infrastructure needs across the state. The meeting featured a Restore Pennsylvania presentation and a robust telehealth discussion, featuring UPMC, AmeriHealth, and the Lebanon VA Medical Center.
“I’m very pleased and grateful for the support from the Council on Aging,” Gov. Wolf said. “And for the council’s realization of the many benefits the Restore Pennsylvania plan has for the state’s older adults – initiatives to protect and make their quality of life even better.”
PCoA’s role is to advocate for Pennsylvania seniors, and to advise the governor and the Department of Aging on the planning, coordination, and delivery of services to these individuals. PCoA specifically identified the following measures as to how Restore Pennsylvania would benefit seniors across the state:
Storm preparedness and natural recovery
Older adults can find themselves extremely vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster due to mobility, health issues, or social isolation. PCoA points out that historically, older adults comprise the largest pool of victims in natural disasters of any age group. In a 2017 survey, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) found that only 26 percent of Pennsylvanians age 65 and older had a plan in place for disaster circumstances. This leaves a majority of seniors across the state unprepared to act in advance for storms or natural disasters. Additionally, seniors are often re-victimized following natural disasters as they try to recover. Lack of access to necessary medication in a timely manner, physical support, and financial means can hold back a senior as they try to acclimate after a natural disaster. Restore Pennsylvania outlines support that can help seniors regain their independence after a natural disaster, so they can remain in their communities and continue to know a similar way of life.
PCoA recognizes that nationally, a quarter of adults over 65 do not drive, so many seniors rely on public transportation for social and healthcare-related needs. This keeps them connected in their communities, and gives them the sense of independence that comes with being able to get to and from appointments, family, and friends. Currently, infrastructure for bus shelters and adequate seating for older adults is lacking in many rural areas of the commonwealth, and these are accommodations that seniors both need and rely on to get them safely to and from their commitments. Restore Pennsylvania plans to upgrade back roads and improve roadways and public transit overall.
Seniors already tend to have more lead content in their systems than any other age group because they have lived a longer period of time or they may have been exposed to lead in unregulated occupations in their past. Epidemiological studies have found that older adults have higher blood and bone lead levels than younger adults, and lead contamination is a significant threat to older adults. Once lead enters the body, it circulates the blood and reaches soft tissues and bone, and then hibernates within bones for decades. Blood and bone lead levels are associated with hypertension, renal insufficiency, and cognitive impairment. This is a cycle that cannot continue for aging Pennsylvanians, and Restore Pennsylvania would assist communities in removing contaminants from homes, schools, and public buildings.
Seniors living in rural areas are likely to experience social isolation, which can lead to depression, lack of self-care, loneliness, and more. It is important that older adults are able to connect with friends, family, and healthcare practitioners to remain connected and healthy. With seniors making up the fastest-growing age group to use technology, when they are given the opportunity to learn about technology and how to use it, their communication with family and friends increases. Access to broadband as outlined in the Restore Pennsylvania initiative would help combat seniors’ potential for social isolation and give them access to telehealth options in their areas as they become available.
“After receiving an overview on Restore Pennsylvania and engaging in robust conversation, the Pennsylvania Council on Aging has clearly identified aspects of Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania proposal that will benefit the state’s growing and diverse senior population,” said Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres. “The council’s advocacy is an acknowledgement of how this initiative will improve our state structurally for not only seniors, but all Pennsylvanians.”
Restore Pennsylvania will invest $4.5 billion over the next four years in significant, high-impact infrastructure projects throughout the commonwealth, and is the most aggressive infrastructure plan in generations. PCoA acknowledges that additional Restore Pennsylvania initiatives would also largely benefit seniors across the commonwealth, and are eager to lend their voices to the passage and implementation of legislation.