JHF Staff Support PA Master Plan for Older Adults

Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) staff Stacie Bonenberger, MOT, OTR/L and Anneliese Perry, MS, NHA, CECM traveled to Harrisburg in mid-October to support the development of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging's Master Plan for Older Adults. The Plan will guide the Department and other state agencies over the next ten years to improve services and programs that support the 3.4 million older Pennsylvanians as well as those living with disabilities. This spring, Governor Josh Shapiro signed an Executive Director directing the Department of Aging to develop the Plan, placing Pennsylvania alongside 16 other states that are also developing and implementing plans for their aging populations. Pennsylvania has the fifth largest older adult population in the country, with 17.8% of residents aged 60 and over.

During the October meeting, the Department of Aging convened the state's Long-Term Care Council to review community needs assessment data as well as community input to inform the plan's priorities. Pennsylvanians had submitted thousands of comments online and during listening sessions held across the state over the past few months. The Plan's structure is designed using AARP's Age-Friendly community framework, which encompasses eight domains of livability: Housing, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, Transportation, Civic Participation and Employment, Health Services and Community Supports, Communication and Information, Respect and Social Inclusion, and Social Participation.

Bonenberger and Perry led the planning session for the "Social Participation" domain. They met with subject-matter experts, professionals from various state agencies, and Long-Term Care Council members to discuss the data and community feedback. The group addressed various factors that shape older adults' social participation, such as access to quality programs at local libraries and senior centers, accessible and affordable transportation to social events, and how social isolation impacts mental health. Using feedback collected during the session, Bonenberger and Perry will help the Department write the "Social Participation" section that will outline how state agencies can improve older adults' access to and engagement in social activities.

The finalized Master Plan for Older Adults will be published in early 2024, with implementation and progress data expected to hold the Plan accountable in the years to come.

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