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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
The new master plan will guide the agency in its work over the next decade to make the state more livable for older residents.

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 during 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.

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With 3.4 million older adults, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation for the largest aging population. As of 2020, residents age 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 at 10 a.m. 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 at 1 p.m. on Aug. 25
  • Human Services Building at 10 a.m. on Sept, 12 and 10 a.m. on Sept. 13
  • AgeWell at the Jewish Community Center at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 13
  • LifeSpan McKeesport at 10 a.m. on Sept. 15

Additional virtual listening sessions will be held for residents statewide.

Updated: August 14, 2023 at 10:54 AM EDT
This story has been updated to include the time of the session scheduled for Thursday at the Persad Center in Lawrenceville.
Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.