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The COVID-19 emergency has forced us all to make drastic changes to how we live and work. However, as we move into the month of May, we are seeing glimmers of hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy, with Governor Wolf beginning a limited, phased reopening of businesses, but with strict safety measures in place to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

May is also Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is “Make Your Mark.” This is not only a time to look at the contributions made by older adults, but at what the Department of Aging, along with Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), community partners and volunteers are doing to advocate for, serve and protect older Pennsylvanians.

The department has worked closely with the AAAs to ensure essential services are being provided to older adults in need. We have also been working closely with the Administration for Community Living and Senator Casey’s office to stay aligned in our efforts, share best practices and learn of innovative ways that service delivery is being offered and improved during this time. We are optimistic that the challenges we have faced will provide many lessons learned that will help us rethink how we’re delivering services not just during these unprecedented times, but after we get beyond this emergency.

One of our biggest shared concerns has been social isolation and its impact on older adults. Social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression and ultimately a decrease in health status. To assess how older adults have managed during this pandemic, the Pennsylvania Council on Aging launched a brief survey last month in both English and Spanish. The survey, geared toward Pennsylvanians aged 60 and older, received more than 3,700 responses and included questions that focused on food access, public risk factors and social engagement. We have released the results of this survey, which you can read about further in this newsletter. We will use the findings to evaluate actions the department and our partners can take to help address the concerns raised and to explore options to reduce the risk of social isolation in older Pennsylvanians.

The department recently received some good news from the federal government that will help support the increasing needs of older Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 emergency and beyond. The commonwealth has received $34 million to provide services authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA). This funding is most welcome and will go directly toward support services such as delivering meals, advocating for older adults in residential facilities, and providing other essential services, such as protective services. View the COVID-19 OAA federal funding press release to learn more.

The response to the COVID-19 crisis has unfortunately taken attention away from other important matters such as updating the Older Adults Protective Services Act. In the current legislative session, two pieces of legislation (House Bill 1930 and Senate Bill 819) provide necessary updates to the Act that are critical to improving the department’s ability to protect older Pennsylvanians. These updates will help expand mandatory reporters, update background check requirements, update voluntary and mandatory reporter training, provide clarification on financial exploitation, and provide guidance on how to report suspected abuse.

As we work to transition our way out of this crisis, I thank every one of you for making your mark in our collective effort to serve older adults, under these very challenging circumstances, to help ensure their health and safety. We are getting through this, together.



Robert Torres
Secretary of Aging
COVID-19 Resource Guide Online for Older Pennsylvanians
The department has launched an online COVID-19 resource guide to help older adults, their families and caregivers easily find useful information related to health, safety and well-being. The guide offers resources on a variety of subjects, including meals, prescriptions, protective services, scams, and how to stay active and connected.

Important Dates for the Pennsylvania Primary Election

Pennsylvania has made changes to its primary election voting timeline to ensure everyone is able to vote safety during the COVID-19 emergency.

June 2 is now the date for Pennsylvania’s primary election, originally scheduled for April 28. 
  • May 18 is now the last day to register to vote.
  • May 26 is the last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot.
  • June 2 is the last day mail-in and civilian absentee ballots can be received.
Visit for more general information about voting and upcoming elections.  You are now able to register to vote online and apply to vote by mail. 
Resource for People with Loved Ones in Long-Term Care

Family and friends who are unable to see loved ones living in long-term care facilities because of the COVID-19 emergency may struggle with changes in protocol, rights and policies. The Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is available to help with a new statewide resource called Virtual Family Council.

The program will offer online meetings twice a month with a local ombudsman facilitating, along with a team of 10 local experts in attendance. Anyone can participate and ask questions, share concerns, or just listen to learn and gather information. The meetings will not address specific issues regarding a resident or a facility.

Meetings will be held every two weeks, beginning on Tuesday, May 5. To get connection information, email and in the subject line, indicate Virtual Family Council.

Let’s Celebrate – and Care for – Our Pets!

May is National Pet Month, an opportunity to not only commemorate the benefits our pets bring to our lives, but also to support pet adoption and raise awareness of working companion animals, which many older adults use for assistance in their daily lives.

There are many health benefits of owning a pet. They can help manage depression and loneliness while providing companionship. Pets can also decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increase opportunities for exercise and socialization.

It’s important to keep your pets healthy as you would yourself and your family. That includes regular checkups and proper nutrition. Many families facing financial hardships during the coronavirus outbreak need assistance with pet food and supplies. Read how one organization is helping.

If you know someone who could use some help with getting pet food and supplies, there is an online list of pet pantries.

Courts Functions and Legal Assistance for Older Adults

The Department of Aging has joined the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Officer of Elder Justice in the Courts to remind older adults and their families that essential court functions and legal assistance remain available during the stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines.
While courts remain closed, essential court functions that are still being conducted include:  
  • Temporary protection from abuse actions;
  • Civil mental health reviews;
  • Guardianship defense and representation;
  • Any pleadings or motions relating to public health concerns and involving immediate and irreparable harm;
  • Emergency petitions related to protection of abused or neglected children; and
  • Any other function deemed by a president judge to be essential and consistent with constitutional requirements.
Senior-serving organizations available to help with legal assistance during this crisis include: 
  • Pennsylvania SeniorLAW HelpLine: 877-PA SR LAW (877-727-7529)
  • Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE):  800-356-3606
  • Pennsylvania Health Law Project (PHLP): Help Line 800-274-3258 or
  • PALawHelp:
Two essential functions of the Department of Aging are advocating for the rights of older adults and protecting them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and/or abandonment. Anyone suspecting elder abuse can contact their local Area Agency on Aging or call the statewide Elder Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-800-490-8505 which is operational 24/7, 365 days per year.  

It’s Easy to be Counted in the 2020 Census

While under the stay-at-home order, there’s no better time than now for you to be counted in the 2020 Census. Paper forms have already been mailed to homes, but that’s not the only option.

You can also respond over the phone or online. It’s easy to do! Visit for more information.

The House considered the following aging-related bills:
  • House Bill 974 (Peifer) – Senior Citizen Tax Reduction Incentive Act 
  • House Bill 1076 (Hennessey) – Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange Program Act 
  • House Resolution 628 (Hanbidge) – Resolution urging Congress to expand Medicare coverage to include hearing aids and approve the Protecting Our Pharmaceutical Act
The Senate considered the following aging-related bills:
  • House Bill 775 (Diamond) – Requires PACE to cross-reference DOH death records. This bill was signed by the Governor and is now Act 14 of 2020. 
  • House Bill 1076 (Hennessey) – Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange Program Act
The House and Senate were mainly focused on COVID-19-related legislation, such as reopening specific business industries and creating task forces.
On Thursday, April 23, the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committees held a joint hearing on the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19. Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, DCED Secretary Dennis Davin, and PEMA Director Randy Padfield testified on behalf of the Administration.

The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session throughout May.
  • House Session dates – 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13
  • Senate Session dates – 4, 5, 6, 18, 19, 20 
On Thursday, May 7, the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee will host an informational hearing on COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.
Pennsylvania Council on Aging Surveys Older Adults During COVID-19

In April, the Pennsylvania Council on Aging (PCoA) conducted an online survey to assess the immediate needs of older adults during COVID-19, specifically around food access, public risk factors, and social isolation.

The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish and drew more than 3,700 responses from older adults across Pennsylvania. The survey included questions on how often the older adult communicates with people outside their home, technologies they are using to connect, how often they are leaving their home during COVID-19, and their primary reasons for doing so.

The Pennsylvania Council on Aging serves as an advocate for older individuals and advises the Governor and the Department of Aging on planning, coordination, and delivery of services to older individuals. The Council’s 21 volunteer members, the majority of whom are required to be age 60 or older, are nominated by the Governor and approved by the Senate. 

Additional members of the Council serve as chairs for five regional councils totaling 65 volunteers, which meet quarterly. These regional councils gather information and insights on local needs and service delivery and report their findings to the Council. They also serve as boots on the ground for research and community outreach efforts. 

Visit the council home page for links to the survey and survey report.
The council update document has been revised to include all current council, workgroup, taskforce, and advisory board activity and is available on the Publications & Reports section of the aging website.
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