Abington – Jan. 8, 2014 – Experts and advocates for proper senior care today told a state Senate panel that there is more Pennsylvania can do to protect and care for its senior citizens.

“Pennsylvania’s growing population of senior citizens has earned the right to have healthy, happy retirement years,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe), who chairs the policy committee. “It is our responsibility to ensure the state’s benefit programs adequately meet their needs.”

Boscola said the purpose of the roundtable was to hear from people who work with Pennsylvania’s seniors every day and know the unique challenges they face.

“It’s our obligation to shield seniors from regressive tax policies, ensure they can live safely in our communities and protect them from exploitation and abuse,” Boscola said. “Today’s panelists know what already works and what needs to be fixed. Their recommendations will help us craft policies that better meet the needs of elderly Pennsylvanians.”

Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Phila.) called for today’s discussion because lawmakers are working to revise the state’s strategic four-year plan on aging, as well as the Older Adult Protective Services Act, and she wanted public input from panelists with extensive knowledge of which programs work and which do not.

“We recognize the needs and lifestyles of Pennsylvania’s seniors are rapidly changing, and they face a series of unique and unprecedented challenges,” Washington said. “I hope we can strengthen protections, institute tougher penalties against abusers and make more resources available to our senior citizens so they can live more fulfilled lives in their golden years.”

Boscola said she is particularly concerned about elder abuse and neglect that happens more often than most Pennsylvanians would like to believe.

“The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging alone investigates 2,000 cases annually,” said Boscola. “This is unacceptable. With the help of today’s panel, we will work to create a zero tolerance for abuse and protect vulnerable Pennsylvanians in every possible way.”

Investigations Manager at Temple University’s Institute for Protective Services Linda Mill said Pennsylvania has the fourth oldest population in the country with more than 2 million people 65 or older living in the state. She said self-neglect and caregiver neglect make up about 65 percent of reported abuse cases in Pennsylvania, but the majority of cases are not even reported.

According to Joanne Kline, executive director of Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services, self-neglect is one of the biggest problems seniors face.

“It’s not just fraud and abuse,” Kline said. “Most cases are self-neglect in the home.”

She said it is essential to provide support and training to caregivers as well as focus on using senior centers as a preventive arm to stop abuse and self-neglect before they begin.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said he and his colleagues will take the stories and issues discussed today back to the legislature.

“We’ll use this input to make difficult decisions in Harrisburg as we craft better legislation for seniors,” said Costa. “It’s appropriate for us to take these next steps, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.”

Senators in attendance included Boscola, Washington and Costa. Others who took part in the discussion included:

  • · Renee Martin, director of education and outreach, Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General;
  • · Diane Menio, executive director, CARIE;
  • · Lynne Fields Harris, executive director, Center in the Park;
  • · David Shallcross, senior community liaison to the elder abuse unit, Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General;
  • · Alma Jacobs, chair, Montgomery County Aging Advisory Council;
  • · Beverly Layne, executive director, Senior to Senior;
  • · Linda Mill, investigations manager, Temple University’s Institute for Protective Services;
  • · Lora Klein, licensed social worker, 2nd Home Adult Day Care Services;
  • · Joanne Kline, executive director, Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services
  • · Ray Landis, advocacy manager, AARP of Pennsylvania;
  • · Sara Maus, manager, Muller Institute for Senior Health;
  • · Jennifer Spoeri, supervisor of older adult protective services, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
    Contact Sen. Boscola’s office at 717-787-4236 with any questions.

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