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This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against all people with disabilities. People living with disabilities represent 20% of our country’s population and yet, they are still largely invisible. Perhaps the social distancing imposed on all of us during COVID-19 helps to shed some light on the barriers they face every day.

A lot of changes have taken place since the ADA was implemented, including making public places more accessible, providing sign language interpreters when giving important information in the media and in medical facilities, and offering accessible websites to register for community programs. However, much work remains. Similar to older adults, people living with disabilities need accessible, affordable, permanent housing; expansion of mental health services; opportunities to get out of long-term care facilities and return to their own communities, and not to be an afterthought in response to national disasters and emergencies.

The Department of Aging is committed to inclusivity with its programs and services for all older Pennsylvanians, including those living with disabilities. Our Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) Office, also known as PA Link, was recently awarded $3 million from the federal government to support its operations and enhance the capacity of the aging and disability network to increase access to and coordination of critical services for those populations most at risk from COVID-19.

These funds will enable activities such as supporting individuals with assistive technology, strengthening referrals to appropriate support services including health, nutrition, and counseling; assisting with care transition from a hospital or long-term care facility back into a home setting; providing PPE to enhance safety for in-home care; reducing social isolation; increasing awareness of low-cost broadband and telecommunication equipment programs, and raising awareness of and accessibility to the PA Link and its services. 

Looking ahead, the department continues to advocate for passage of critical legislative updates to the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA). This law serves to protect the health, safety and welfare of older adults who are at risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment. After more than 30 years, the law needs to be updated to address the rise of financial exploitation among older Pennsylvanians and to reflect changes in facilities and the direct care workforce that serve older adults.

The department supports Senate Bill 819, which is currently in the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee. This bill will expire in December, so I encourage you to please contact your state representative and express your support for passage of these important updates to OAPSA.

In August, PDA will work to finalize our new State Plan on Aging for 2020-2024 that will become effective on October 1, 2020. Public input to help develop the plan has been received through a survey that yielded 5,600 responses, several virtual forums that engaged hundreds of participants, and a two-week review and open comment period of the draft plan. This input has provided us with a valuable assessment of the needs and priorities of older Pennsylvanians, and we will work to build our plan to be responsive to these priorities over the next four years and beyond. 

We are excited to complete this process over the next two months. The State Plan on Aging will not be a report that sits on a shelf. It will serve as an active road map and a living document that will be used to monitor our performance, adjust our course when needed and ensure that we are constantly striving for continuing quality improvement to help meet PDA’s mission and better serve older adults. We certainly could not do it without the help of our staff, AAA network, and all of our community partners and stakeholders. Thank you for all of the support and input you have provided and for being an important part of this effort.


Robert Torres
Secretary of Aging
PDA Hosts Virtual Community Conversation on State Plan on Aging

More than 200 people participated in the Department of Aging’s Virtual Community Conversation to discuss the department’s State Plan on Aging for 2020-2024 and to provide feedback on strengthening aging services throughout the commonwealth.
Those who attended the conversation included stakeholders, elected officials, and representatives from aging services providers. The department began with an overview of the goals, objectives and strategies of the proposed state plan. Participants then heard testimony on the importance of supporting senior community centers, the need to address health disparities of older Pennsylvanians of color and in the LGBTQ community, the work of the Health Equity COVID-19 Response Team 65 and Older Task Force, suggestions on work to support individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease and related disorders, preventive health services for seniors, social isolation among older Pennsylvanians and the importance of having broadband internet access across the entire commonwealth. Attendees also had a chance to submit questions in advance.
Prior to the conversation, the department sent out a brief survey that asked respondents to prioritize services and quality-of-life issues that are most meaningful to them in ensuring age-friendly communities across the commonwealth. The department received 5,600 responses from all 67 counties, with the biggest turnout from southeastern Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh metro area. Survey responses came in from a wide variety of stakeholders including veterans, people living with a disability, family/unpaid caregivers of older adults, grandparents raising grandchildren and members of the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ Aging Services Needs Are Heard at Statewide Town Hall 

The department’s four-year State Plan on Aging was part of the discussion during a Virtual Town Hall on LGBTQ older adults. More than 250 people, including LGBTQ community members, caregivers, service providers and other stakeholders, joined the conversation to hear about the plan, the progress made since the inaugural LGBTQ Aging Summit that was held in 2018, and the department’s other efforts to promote equity for LGBTQ older adults.

The town hall also provided attendees with the chance to share their experiences, concerns and suggestions for improving the delivery of aging services to the LGBTQ community. Testimony included the services needed to address sexual health and sexuality needs, training health care professionals to be more sensitive in treating LGBTQ older adults, providing long-term care for LGBTQ older veterans, and the need for passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.

Help Protect Older Adults from Coronavirus Scams

It may come as no surprise that con artists are using the coronavirus pandemic to scam older adults. These thieves are trying to steal money and identities by promoting fake coronavirus cures, vaccines, and protective items. 

Although there are medications that may treat COVID-19 symptoms, the FDA has yet to approve a vaccine. If an older adult sees an online sales pitch for a cure, vaccine or test, or if someone contacts them directly, they should not buy the product. The same goes with emails promoting these fake items.

Scammers are also posing as Medicare representatives, claiming to need older adults’ Social Security and Medicare information in order to send them free masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

There are no door-to-door sales of legitimate COVID-19 tests or vaccines. No government organization will unexpectedly call, text, or show up at an older person’s house asking for personal information. Also, older adults should not share their credit or debit card information in response to unsolicited requests.

Anyone who has been contacted by a person trying to promote or sell coronavirus cures, tests, vaccines or protective items should call local law enforcement or the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555. 

Secretary Torres recently spoke to a reporter from WLVT PBS 39 in the Lehigh Valley about coronavirus scammers targeting older adults. You can see the story and his interview by visiting WLVT’s website.
Be Aware of Census Worker Scams

Starting on Aug. 11, Census workers will be visiting homes to interview those people who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. Workers will continue their stops until Oct. 31 to help make sure everyone has been counted.

With these upcoming visits, it’s important to stay alert for scam artists. If someone visits an older adult’s home saying they are a Census worker, the homeowner can verify their identity by making sure they have a valid ID badge with their picture, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.

If anyone still has questions about the worker’s identity, they can call 844-330-2020 and speak with a Census Bureau representative.
A Growing Scam:  Unsolicited, Mislabeled Seeds Sent in the Mail

Home gardeners beware: If you, or someone you know, has received unordered seeds shipped from overseas and in packages labeled as jewelry, report them immediately.

The Department of Agriculture said these seeds may contain plant diseases, weeds, or invasive plants that could harm Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and ecosystem. The seeds are likely part of a scam known as “brushing.” Companies boost online sales by purchasing their own products through fake buyer accounts created by the company. The products are shipped to a real address, to someone who didn’t order the item. The seller writes a positive review of their items from the fake buyer account.

Anyone who has received these unsolicited seeds are asked to retain them and the packaging. If opened, double bag and seal them. Do not plant or discard loose seeds.

Report the package to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) confidential Anti-smuggling Hotline, 800-877-3835 or email USDA will provide further instructions.
A Big Anniversary for the Americans with Disabilities Act
This year marks 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA became law. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including older adults, in all aspects of public life, including jobs and transportation. The law’s purpose is to make sure that all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, and that they receive similar protections based on race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion.

For more information, visit the ADA’s website.

Volunteer Spotlight

Some angels wear wings; others wear masks. Carolyn Tenaglia, a long-term care ombudsman with the Department of Aging, recently began volunteering with Meals on Wheels in Schuylkill County after hearing about a decrease in volunteers during the pandemic. She requested a local route so she could provide meals to older adults in the program and then return to work with the Ombudsman’s Office. Thank you, Carolyn, for your tireless dedication to serving and advocating for older Pennsylvanians!

Important Dates for the Pennsylvania General Election

With the increasing number of people looking to vote by mail-in ballot, it’s important for everyone to apply as soon as possible to ensure it’s received by their county board of election in time.

Here are some important dates:

  • Nov. 3 is the date for Pennsylvania’s general election.   
  • Oct. 19 is now the last day to register to vote, and you can now do so online.
  • Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. is the last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot.
  • Nov. 3 is the last day mail-in and civilian absentee ballots can be received. The cut-off time is 8 p.m.

Visit for more information and to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot.


Legislative - The General Assembly did not consider any Aging-related legislation during July.

Hearings - On Thursday, July 16 the House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing on COVID-19 plans for disabled residents in long-term care facilities.


Legislative - The House will return to session Tuesday, September 15 and the Senate will return Tuesday, September 8.

When the General Assembly returns to session in the fall, the department will focus on advancing our legislative priorities:
  • Updating the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) – For more than three decades, OAPSA has served as the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s system for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of older adults who are at imminent risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and abandonment. The department supports an OAPSA update that includes background checks for all employees of long-term care facilities, expanding who should be considered a mandatory reporter of abuse, and working with financial institutions to prevent financial exploitation. Sen. Mensch’s Senate Bill 819 includes these important updates. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate in October and is currently in the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee. The department fully supports S.B. 819.

  • Updating the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Act – The purpose of the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Program (CSP) is to alleviate the stress associated with caregiving by supporting the caregiver through respite and, when needed, to provide financial reimbursement for caregiving-related services and supplies. The department is proposing to remove the statutory CSP monthly care plan cost cap and CSP home modification lifetime limit, allowing them to be set by the department, and remove the $300 aggregate average requirement for all CSP cases. Rep. Boback’s House Bill 2684 would make these changes. 
No Aging-related hearings have been scheduled at this time.
Promoting Nutritious, Farm-fresh Foods for Low-income Seniors

Secretary Torres joined Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding at a recently opened Farmers Market in Harrisburg to promote the value of Pennsylvania’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program for low-income seniors.

Older adults who suffer from food insecurity have inadequate diets, a higher risk of depression and other poor health outcomes. Programs such as the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program make it possible for vulnerable adults, 60 years of age and over, to access nutritious foods and help them live healthy lives. When visiting these markets, older adults are urged to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

For more information on the program, including the eligibility criteria, visit the Department of Agriculture’s website.

Community HealthChoices (CHC) Waiver Amendments Open for Public Comment

The Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) is seeking public comment now through Aug. 24 on its proposed amendments for the CHC 1915(c) Home and Community-Based Waiver. The waivers govern operation of the CHC Program, which is Pennsylvania’s managed long-term services and supports initiative.

Written comments can be submitted to the Department of Human Services, Office of Long-Term Living, Bureau of Policy Development and Communications Management, Attention: CHC 2021 Waiver Amendment, P.O. Box 8025, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8025. Comments can also be sent to using the comment form OLTL has provided. Please use “CHC 2021 Waiver Amendment” as the subject line. A Word version of the comment form can be downloaded via the link found at the bottom of the 2021 Community HealthChoices (CHC) Waiver Amendment webpage.

A side-by-side comparison of the current and revised language as well as copies of the amendments are available on the Department of Human Services’ website.

OLTL will be submitting the amendments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in October.
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