HARRISBURG—Pennsylvania’s changing demographics are placing demands on the state’s seniors as they search for housing that better serves their changing needs. To better understand those needs, the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia), held an informational hearing on how the state can improve senior housing options.
“While there are seniors with adequate funds to live in 55-plus communities, there are many without the funds for adequate housing to meet their needs,” Murt said. “To find senior housing, many must move far away from their families. We must find more innovative ways to help our seniors when the time comes to move to more helpful living arrangements.”
A survey conducted by the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging found one of those challenges as many grandparents and great-grandparents are caring for adult children addicted to opioids.
The survey also found many seniors caring for adults with special needs.
“We have for decades considered successful aging to mean staying in the same home that one raised a family in,” said Kathleen Gillespie, chief executive officer for the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging Inc. “ln addition to being erroneous, this does in fact create barriers that can and do become dangerous for seniors who are in need of help due to disease processes.”
Among the solutions discussed are shared housing situations where seniors with similar health challenges can live together with support staff.
In 2015, the Monroe County Area Agency on Aging participated in the tri-county Shared Housing and Resource Exchange (SHARE) pilot program for low-income seniors. The program matches seniors with homeowners who make their properties available as rentals.
“The SHARE Counselors spend a significant amount of time in person getting to know everyone and going over the application process,” said Brian LaVacca, administrator for the Monroe County Area Agency on Aging, “This gives them the time to understand the person’s needs.”
Yet, challenges remain. LaVacca testified that host houses are often far off the public transportation routes, and it can be difficult to find people who can meet the financial
requirement of the facility. “In some extreme cases, they have no income, and we cannot proceed with matching,” he said.
According to Jennifer Hale, director of the Bureau of Policy and Regulatory Management, Office of Long-Term Living, for the Department of Human Services, the goal is to find community-based housing options.
To accomplish this, in 2018 the departments of Human Services and Aging began a three-year implementation of Community HealthChoices (CHC), a managed care program for individuals who receive both Medicaid and Medicare, older adults, and individuals with physical disabilities.
“CHC is primarily focused on serving more people in communities, to give program participants the opportunity to work, spend more time with families and experience an overall better quality of life,” Hale said. “Another goal of CHC is to improve services for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians by enhancing access to and coordination of medical care. We are creating a person-driven, long-term support system where people have choice, control, and access to a full array of quality services that provide independence, health, and better quality of life.”
But a challenge remains. “AARP ranks Pennsylvania 36th in the nation for subsidized housing opportunities,” Hale said.
“I will take the information we received and find ways through legislation to connect seniors in need with housing that addresses their needs,” Murt said.
Representative Thomas P. Murt, Ed.D.
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster