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It will come as no surprise that our April Inside Aging focuses on the issue that has, at least for right now, redefined how we live and work: COVID-19.

We at the Pennsylvania Department of Aging understand the gravity of our responsibility during this emergency. The population of older adults that we serve, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. That is why the mitigation actions the Governor has taken are so important.

We’re all living through an unprecedented time. Practicing social distancing from our colleagues and the people we serve has challenged us all to look at new and innovative ways to communicate and deliver services. We’ve had to plan and respond quickly to the evolving challenges of this outbreak. We’ve had to be flexible, patient and deal with uncertainty while continuing to be a source of reassurance, support, and connection to the most vulnerable among us.

It’s a lot to ask; yet our Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and all of our community partners and volunteers on the front lines have responded with courage and tireless determination. They are helping to meet this challenge. We must acknowledge, encourage and help uplift the spirit of workers and volunteers that continue to serve older adults during this COVID-19 emergency.

Since the first Pennsylvania case of COVID-19 was announced on March 6, the Department of Aging has worked with the AAAs, senior community centers, and adult day living centers to provide guidance, connect them with resources, receive input and meet their informational needs. We are holding weekly calls with the AAAs and sending routine updates on whatever new information we have that may impact their operations. We work to get their questions answered promptly, and we appreciate the input and insights that they provide, based on what they’re seeing on the ground.

Our top shared concern, as a network, is to ensure the health and safety of the older adult and the aging network workforce. For the caring professionals who continue to serve older adults every day, the Department of Aging has issued guidance and technical assistance to minimize required face-to-face contacts between older adults and staff who support them such as protective services and in-home services workers. The guidance can be found on the Department’s website,, under “Provider Guidance COVID-19.” We will continue to update the guidelines as needed. In addition to our own department’s guidance, visitors will find links to federal and other state agency resources.

While these are certainly challenging times we face, it is also an opportunity to emphasize the vital, truly life-sustaining role we play in support of older adults. This includes meeting their nutritional and in-home service needs, advocating for and protecting them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and/or abandonment, and supporting the prescription needs of over 250,000 enrollees in our PACE Program and others, not in PACE, who seek assistance with medications.

This experience indeed forces us all to focus on the available resources and essentials of what older adults need. I also believe that there will be many lessons learned that will provide a fresh perspective for how we will move forward once this outbreak subsides.

We live in a time of connective technology; now, we’re utilizing it in new ways, but also discovering the gaps in terms of who can access it. As we Skype, WebEx and Zoom; as we Facetime, email, text and call, we have an opportunity to expand our thinking about how older adults can use these technologies to fight social isolation, access health services, stay engaged and connect with loved ones. 

Many Pennsylvanians are suffering and sacrificing right now. While there isn’t a timeline for when our lives and careers will return to normal, I know we will persevere and get through this. I also believe we can and will emerge as a stronger network.  

Thank you, all of you, for the amazing work you are doing each day. While this invisible enemy may temporarily force our separation, it will not prevent us from supporting each other and working together.

Take care and stay safe,


Robert Torres
Secretary of Aging
Scams Spring Up During COVID-19 Outbreak

Scam artists are at it again: This time they're looking to prey on vulnerable Pennsylvanians amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Con artists are sending emails, texts and making calls seeking personal information about the federal stimulus payments. People may even receive checks for an odd amount rather than the estimated round number amount they should be receiving.

The IRS reminds everyone that if it needs to contact someone, it will only do so through snail mail. If someone believes a scam artist has contacted them, they should file a complaint with the FBI or Federal Trade Commission immediately.

Scammers are also pretending to be from Social Security, threatening to suspend benefits to due to COVID-19 or coronavirus-related office closures. The Social Security Administration said it will not suspend or discontinue benefits because its offices have been closed.

If anyone has received a letter, text or email they believe to be suspicious, about an alleged problem with a beneficiary’s Social Security number, account, or payments, they should not respond or hang up. They are urged to report the scam using the SSA’s online form at

There have also been reports of scammers sending robocalls and text messages, and targeting people on social media pitching fake cures, testing devices, fraudulent respiratory masks and a host of other suspicious products and claims.

Anyone who sees a COVID-19 related scam should contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-441-2555.
Connecting Creatively with Older Adults

Here’s a great activity for children while they are home: Create cards and pictures and send them to nursing facilities in their community. If you are not sending it to a specific person, you can address it to the activity department or social services at the facility and mark the envelope “for distribution to residents.”

Facilities are most likely still accepting mail and should have a procedure in place to process the mail safely. In some cases, the facility may hold it for later distribution.

Pennsylvania’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Volunteers invite everyone to create videos and pictures of love and support to share on their Facebook page.
Seeking Volunteers

Food banks and other organizations that distribute food to older adults are in desperate need of volunteers during the COVID-19 outbreak. With many regular volunteers who are older choosing to stay home and limit social interaction, others are encouraged to step up.
Anyone interested in volunteering can call 211 to learn about the different organizations in their community that could use the help.

The House and Senate’s session days focused on COVID-19. Both chambers passed resolutions to allow members the ability to vote remotely.
On March 27, Governor Wolf signed a few bills that fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania.
  • House Bill 1232 (Dunbar) – Provides $50 million for the Wolf administration to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency medical services to meet the urgent needs of patients and staff.
  • Senate Bill 422 (Vogel) – Reschedules the 2020 primary election from April 28 to June 2, allows counties to begin processing and tabulating mail ballots beginning at 7 a.m. on election day, and allows counties to temporarily consolidate polling places without court approval and eases other rules regarding location and staffing of polling places for the primary.
  • House Bill 68 (Ryan) – Makes applying for unemployment compensation easier for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee concluded budget hearings on March 4.
  • The House Appropriations Committee concluded budget hearings on March 5.
  • All March voting and informational committee meetings were canceled.

The Senate returns to session Monday, April 6. The House returns Tuesday, April 14.
PACE Pharmacy Program Offers Early Prescription Refills (and Free Home Delivery) During COVID-19 Mitigation Effort

For older Pennsylvanians heeding the directives to stay at home and limit social interaction during the COVID-19 outbreak, getting medications refilled can become an additional worry. That’s why the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) started on March 5 to grant enrollees early prescription refills on most medications.

Under regular circumstances, enrollees must use 75% of their supply before refills will be reimbursed. PACE will now reimburse refills purchased before 75% of the days’ supply has passed. The exceptions are opioids and other controlled substances, which will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Enrollees who would like to receive this exception should contact their pharmacy provider and ask for free home delivery. PACE has also waived the requirements for pharmacies to obtain delivery signatures, so medications can be left at enrollees’ doors, eliminating the need for social interaction.

If enrollees are having difficulties in obtaining their refills, they can contact PACE cardholder services at 1-800-225-7223.
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