Copy
View this email in your browser
IN THIS ISSUE: A Message from the Secretary: New Year, New Opportunities | COVID-19: Vaccine Dashboard Launches | What's NewPilot Program -  Enriching Lives | Spotlight: Long-term Care Ombudsman Shines Focus On: Financial Exploitation | Event Info: Virtual Events for Older Adults - SOLO Small Group Sessions, Family Council, Cybersecurity & More | Applause Please: Congrats & Kudos! | What's New: In the Commonwealth - Tax/Rent Rebate Online Form, PA Veteran Trust Fund Grants & More | Update On: Legislation | Just A: Reminder - Winter Falls Prevention Contact Us |  
Photo of Secretary TorresNew Year, New Opportunities

Happy New Year! On behalf of the Department of Aging, I wish you all a prosperous, safe and healthy 2021.  

The Department is looking ahead to what 2021 will bring us, our aging network, and most importantly, older Pennsylvanians. We’ve laid important groundwork for the future with our new four-year State Plan on Aging that became effective October 1, 2020. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have worked together to innovate and improve the quality of services and programs we provide. For this new year and beyond, we are committed to serving, protecting and empowering older adults, of all backgrounds, in order to enable them to live their lives with dignity, purpose and fulfillment. With this in mind, I look forward to working with all of our partners and stakeholders, to produce positive – and necessary – outcomes. 

Unfortunately, long-awaited, much-needed updates to the Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) did not make it to the finish line in 2020. As a result, this remains one of PDA’s top priorities for the new year. The updates we’re supporting would address changes in the direct care workforce, the facilities that serve older adults, and the rise of financial exploitation as a form of elder abuse. Protecting older adults from becoming victims of financial exploitation was the scope of a study the department released in September.

In response to the study’s recommendation, PDA convened, in December, an interdisciplinary task force of state agencies; aging, legal, financial and healthcare stakeholders and subject experts to discuss the problem of financial exploitation of older adults. The task force will meet over the next few months to assess collaborative opportunities focused on prevention. I am pleased with the positive feedback we received during the first meeting and some members are even making connections to work with one another outside of the task force. I am looking forward to seeing the results of these efforts to further protect vulnerable older adults. You can read more about the task force in this newsletter.

As previously noted, the department has commenced work on its new four-year State Plan on Aging. This plan will guide our priorities and work to help keep us focused toward reaching our goals. 

One of the emerging issues listed in the State Plan on Aging is access to technology. As we witnessed in 2020, technology played a central role in our daily lives, making it possible to work at home, learn online, receive healthcare, shop, attend religious services, and meet other basic needs. Yet there are still many Pennsylvanians – including older adults – who do not have access to the internet. The lack of access to technology and the internet puts older Pennsylvanians, particularly those in rural areas, at risk, when you consider the adverse impacts of social isolation and not being able to connect with loved ones and friends. PDA continues to support Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania initiative. This initiative seeks to address the commonwealth’s vital infrastructure needs, including the need to improve access to high-speed internet throughout Pennsylvania.

 

In the meantime, PDA has moved forward with partnerships and grant opportunities to help support the connection to technologies that older adults have told us they want and need. Pennsylvania’s Link to Aging and Disability Resources is increasing supports for older adults including assistive technology to access telehealth services, receive check-in calls and reduce social isolation. Our Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman is using Padbot robots to reach residents in long term care facilities where visitations have been restricted. Our Council on Aging has launched an online health and wellness guide, Strengthening Older Lives Online, also known as SOLO. These are examples of how we have adapted to better support older adults during this pandemic and beyond.


On the issue of communications, you may have noticed that Inside Aging has started off the new year with a new look and features to make our content more navigable. Please let us know what you think as we always appreciate your feedback. 

As we continue working to meet the needs of older Pennsylvanians, I thank every one of you for your hard work, support and dedication. The Department has a lot of exciting opportunities ahead and we know with the support of the entire aging network and our community partners we will make 2021 a year of action and advancement for older adults. 

 

 
Sincerely,
      

 
Robert Torres
Secretary of Aging

Department of Health Launches Vaccine Distribution Dashboard 

Covid-19 Vaccine graphicThe Department of Health (DOH) has launched the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard. The dashboard includes information on the number of vaccinations administered by county, as well as demographic information about the people being vaccinated. Check out the dashboard on the Department of Health’s website

Currently, vaccines are being given to frontline workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order effective January 6 to ensure vaccines are available to health care providers not affiliated with a health system, federally qualified health center or pharmacy. 

Vaccine providers, such as hospitals, federally qualified health centers and pharmacies must designate at least 10% of their vaccine shipments for non-affiliated health care providers to ensure there is supply available. The order also requires vaccine providers to set up a point of contact for these non-affiliated providers to register for vaccination appointments.

For more information about the vaccine distribution and other COVID-19-related news, visit the Department of Health’s and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s websites. 

Pilot Program Enriches the Lives of College Students and Older Adults
Photo of Virtual Meeting Participants.
PDA joined Slippery Rock University (SRU) to launch a pilot program in the fall semester to offer students in recreational therapy and behavioral sciences programs real world experience by completing service-learning projects that included interactions with older adults. 
 

Students engaged with seniors typically twice a week either over the phone or virtually if the senior had access to videoconferencing technology. The students earned service-learning hours, gained skills in virtual assessment and implementing interventions while participating in a variety of activities with their older adult, including recipe swapping, brain fitness, relaxation, games, and sharing personal life stories. Participating students looking to reduce social isolation and loneliness in older adults also found they gained personal fulfillment.
 
Another goal of the pilot program is to get more young people interested in fields that involve working with and supporting older adults. 
 
Towards the end of the fall semester, Secretary Torres, along with some PDA executive staff, met virtually with participating students and professors to discuss how the program went and what could be improved. SRU will continue the program in the spring. 

PDA is currently connecting with other universities that initially expressed interest in the program to inform them of how it was received through SRU. The department is also contacting other universities across the commonwealth to explore inclusion of the program in their curriculums.  
 
A huge thank you to the Butler and Mercer Area Agencies on Aging for connecting more than 100 seniors with PDA for this pilot program.
 
Look for testimony from participating students in upcoming editions of Inside Aging
PA Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Shines in the National Spotlight

The PA Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman was honored to present three sessions to ombudsman professionals from across the country during the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care’s virtual conference in December. 

The conference allowed the ombudsmen to show off the creative and innovative practices the office has put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
Kimberly Shetler
Jaime Rose
Kimberly Shetler presented family advocacy and innovative approaches that the commonwealth took to provide family members with ongoing support and information. This included the Virtual Family Council, for which The National Consumer Voice provided its expertise in the development.

Ms. Shetler’s presentation also discussed how this advocacy can transition into post-COVID-19 times by empowering people to initiate family councils at the facilities where their loved ones reside. 
 
Jaime Rose gave a more in-depth presentation on the Virtual Family Council, which is the first of its kind in the nation. Ms. Rose outlined the background and set-up for the virtual platform, as well as the collaborative effort from the Ombudsman office and the local county ombudsman programs. 

The Virtual Family Council began meeting in May 2020 on a weekly basis until November, when a family survey requested a bi-weekly schedule. Several states plan to replicate this service to families in their respective states. 

Dorrie Taylor presented the newest advocates at the Office of LTC Ombudsman. “Addie the Advocate” and “Pete the PEERbot” are Padbots – mobile robots that utilize a smart phone or tablet attached to a wheeled base. They are designed to safely connect ombudsmen with residents via video who may not be able to adequately correspond or who do not have their own communication devices.

Ombudsmen control the Padbots’ movements and their faces are projected on a screen to allow personal, private interaction with residents without assistance from facility staff. 
 
The pilot program for the Padbots launched in Dauphin County, and the devices were purchased with funding from the CARES Act. The goal is to get two Padbots in each of the six regions of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. 
 
A huge shout-out to the entire Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman for all of its accomplishments during the pandemic while advocating for residents in long-term care facilities. 
Project Snowman Delivers Avalanche of Holiday Greetings to LTC Residents
 
Before the pandemic, 60 percent of long-term care residents did not receive a visitor during the holidays; during COVID, that number has increased. So this past December, the Southwest PA Area Agency on Aging’s Long-term Care Ombudsman Program launched Project Snowman, an all-out blitz to collect holiday cards for area residents living in long-term care facilities. Within just a few weeks, Project Snowman prompted an avalanche of greetings – more than 2,500 cards from Fayette, Greene, and Washington county residents. Cards were delivered to facilities in those counties on December 23, just in time for residents to enjoy them over the holidays. Cheers to SWPA AAA Ombudsman supervisor William Teagarden and all who put their hearts into making Project Snowman a huge success and model for other local holiday programs. 

Advocacy Afghans Deliver Warm Fuzzies

Delaware County ombudsmen have continued their holiday tradition of delivering warm hugs to residents at a selected nursing facility – with handmade afghans. This year, 60 cuddly afghans went to Naamans Creek Country Manor in Garnet Valley, Pa. Made by volunteers in the community, these colorful creations are wrapped with an Ombudsman brochure with contact information. Usually, these afghans are hand-delivered to each resident at a selected facility, but due to COVID, were dropped off and facility staff hand-delivered to each resident. Making the delivery are Terry Levin, Ombudsman Supervisor and Rahmah Allen, Staff Ombudsman.
PDA Assembles Public-Private Task Force to Address Financial Exploitation of Older Adults 
 
Taking action to address the findings of its recently-released statewide study of financial exploitation of older adults, the Department of Aging convened an interdisciplinary task force of state agencies, aging, legal, financial, law enforcement and healthcare stakeholders, and subject matter experts to discuss the issue of financial exploitation and focus on a multi-disciplinary approach to its prevention.
 
The formation of a task force was one of the five recommendations of PDA’s Financial Exploitation Study, released in September 2020. The task force is scheduled to meet through April 2021 with the goal of better coordinating efforts and supports for older adults to provide additional opportunities for the early detection and prevention of financial exploitation. 

Other members of the task force are: 
  • Office of Policy and Planning, Governor Tom Wolf 
  • PA Department of Human Services
  • PA Department of Health
  • PA Department of Revenue
  • PA Department of State 
  • PA Department of Banking and Securities
  • PA Office of Attorney General 
  • PA Department of Insurance
  • PA State Police
  • PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
  • PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency
  • PA Office of Victim Advocate 
  • AARP
  • Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Pennsylvania
  • PA Association of Area Agencies on Aging
  • SeniorLAW Center
  • PA Bar Association/Elder Law Section
  • Cross State Credit Union Association
  • PA Association of Community Bankers
  • PA Banking Association
  • PA Society of Tax Professionals
  • Temple University Institute on Protective Services
  • PA Medical Society
  • PA Psychological Society
  • UPenn Perelman School of Medicine 
  • PA Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • PA Chiefs of Police Association
  • Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging
  • Blair County Area Agency on Aging
  • Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging
  • PA District Attorneys Association
Review the Financial Exploitation Study

Small-group Online “SOLO” Sessions Help Older Adults Live Their Best Life 

The Pennsylvania Council on Aging’s (PCoA) Social Isolation Task Force is holding free, virtual, small-group, interactive sessions designed to help older adults safeguard their mental, spiritual, and physical health. Now more than ever, these tips and reminders are critically important. 

These sessions will also give seniors the chance to maximize the positive impact of the council’s interactive guide, known as SOLOStrengthening Older Lives Online. 

Space is limited for these hour-long sessions, so older adults should RSVP as soon as possible here: https://bit.ly/3qJULpJ

Groups of older adults that may be interested in having their own session can email Faith Haeussler, PCoA Executive Director, at fhaeussler@pa.gov

View the SOLO Guide - English
View the SOLO Guide - Spanish

Virtual Family Council Resumes Meetings in 2021 

Volunteers that support the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman will continue to host meetings through the Virtual Family Council in 2021. The council offers families a chance to virtually connect with a local ombudsman and other experts to ask questions and discuss protocols, rights and procedures for their loved ones in long-term care facilities. 
 
The meetings are held bi-weekly and do not address specific issues regarding a resident or a facility. The next meeting is on Tuesday, January 12 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
 
Anyone interested in joining the meetings can email jarotz@pa.gov and indicate “Virtual Family Council” in the subject line. They will receive an automatic email reply with instructions on how to connect and the link for the meetings.
Budgeting for Your New Year’s Goals

Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg (Dauphin County) on Thursday, January 21 from 11 a.m. to noon. For additional information contact Cheryl Yablon, Senior Adult Director at 717-236-9555. 
Cybersecurity: Keeping Yourself Safe Online

A program designed to help build cyber awareness and help you to keep your information safe and secure online. This presentation covers key topics like using secure websites, creating strong passwords, being aware of what you put on social media, and even tips for shopping online safely.
  • Mansfield Senior Center (Tioga County) on Wednesday, January 13 from 11 a.m. to noon. Open to Senior Center members.
  • Slippery Rock Senior Center (Butler County) on Tuesday, January 19 from 11 a.m. to noon. Open to Senior Center members.
  • Lancaster Neighborhood Senior Center (Lancaster County) on Friday, January 22 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Open to Senior Center members.
  • Philadelphia Senior Center (Philadelphia County) on Thursday, January 28 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Open to Senior Center members.
Making Your Retirement Nest Egg Last 

A presentation looking at retirement income in two parts: how to make what you have last and how to protect it from investment scams. 
  • American HealthCare Group (Allegheny County) on Tuesday, January 19 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. To register visit the event page.
  • Delaware County Senior Services (Delaware County) on Wednesday, January 20 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. To register and receive the Zoom link, contact Katrina Boyer katrboyer@pa.gov.
Consumers and community groups can call 1-800-PA-BANKS or email informed@pa.gov for more information.
Kudos to the LGBT Elder Initiative’s Decade of Service

The LGBT Elder Initiative will virtually celebrate its 10th anniversary on January 14 with its “A Cause for Applause” event. The organization has worked to support the LGBT older adult communities in the Greater Philadelphia area since 2011. 

Leading up to its anniversary celebration, the LGBT Elder Initiative hosted a speaker series that discussed topics such as racial and economic health disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic, aging and access to care, and recent legislative successes and current policy priorities to better support LGBT elders.
Read More
Senior Services Center Receives State Recognition

Penn Asian Senior Services (PASSi) in Philadelphia has received the Governor's Award for Safety Excellence, highlighting the importance of workplace safety committees.

PASSi is the largest provider of linguistically attuned senior services for Asian and other limited English proficient (LEP) older adults in southeastern Pennsylvania. 
Read More
New Online Filing Option for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

Older adults now have a new option to file for their annual Property Tax/Rent Rebate with the Department of Revenue’s myPATH system. 

Using myPATH offers many benefits, including: 
  • Fast processing and direct deposit options 
  • The “Where’s My Rebate?” system to track the status of a claim online 
  • Error-reducing automatic calculators 
  • Security features to ensure your sensitive information is safe 
  • User-friendly features that are not available when filing a paper application
For more information, visit the Department of Revenue’s website
Grant Opportunities for Services and Programs Benefiting PA Veterans

Organizations that assist Pennsylvania veterans can now apply for grants from the Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF). The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will award VTF grants up to $800,000 to non-profit and veteran service organizations, and county directors of veteran affairs. 

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, January 27. 
Details Here
Connecting Older Adults with Esports Competition and Fun

During this time of social isolation, older adults can awaken their competitive spirit – and maybe even earn a top prize – at the Seniors Esports Summit.

Now until January 15, search “Senior Esports Summit” on Apple and Android devices and download the free app. There are no age limits. The K.A.R.E.S. Senior Esports Summit app allows children, grandchildren, friends, and caregivers a chance to help, encourage, and connect with older adults.

 
Learn More
2021 PA Farm Show Going Virtual 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ever-popular Pennsylvania Farm Show is going virtual this year. It will take place January 9-16. 
 
PA Farm Show Schedule
Looking Back

There was no legislative activity in the month of December. 

Looking Ahead

House and Senate members will be sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5. 
Upcoming House Activity
  • The House will convene the 2021/2022 legislative session on Monday, January 11. 
  • PDA’s House Appropriations hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 16, at 3 p.m.
Upcoming Senate Activity
  • The Senate will convene the 2021/2022 legislative session on Monday, January 25. 
  • PDA’s Senate Appropriations hearing is scheduled for Monday, February 22, at 3 p.m. 
Thank you for your support! 

PDA would like to thank Sen. Steve Santarsiero for hosting a Virtual Caregivers Resource & Support Event on December 8 in which the department was able to provide information and answer questions on its Caregiver Support Program. Individuals interested in learning more about the Caregiver Support Program should contact their local Area Agency on Aging for more information. Thank you, Sen. Santarsiero, for highlighting the vital work of Pennsylvania’s caregivers!
Preventing Seniors from Falling This Winter

That fresh snowfall may be nice to look at while indoors, but snow, sleet and ice make for some dangerous driving and walking, particularly for older adults who are more prone to falling.  
Here are some tips for aging adults to help prevent falls: 
  • Allow enough time to get where you are going 
  • Exercise caution when getting into and out of vehicles
  • Take the path of least resistance 
  • Ask for help  
  • Concentrate on the path ahead
  • Wear appropriate footwear
  • Avoid carrying items
  • Use handrails when they are provided
Additional information can be found on the Department of Aging’s website
What’s happening in your local aging network? 

Is there a great initiative or virtual event happening in your local aging network? How about a good news event? Tell PDA about it! Email the details and any photos to agingcomms@pa.gov, and it may be featured in an upcoming edition of Inside Aging. 
  Like Us on Facebook
Like Us on Facebook
If you or someone you know would like to subscribe sign up to receive Inside Aging here.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.