Aging Sec. reveals Walkable Warren grant

On the premise that what is good for senior citizens is good for the community as a whole, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Aging Brian Duke was in Warren Wednesday to announce $74,094 has been set aside in the recently signed state budget to enhance the Walkable Warren program.

The program, which includes the establishment of a pedestrian/pedacycle path to aid in health and wellness, is also designed to boost economic growth for the City of Warren. The grant will also fund the Allegheny Community Center’s involvement in Coming of Age, an initiative to help increase civic engagement among those age 50 and older.

“Both projects will help local seniors to remain in better health and better connected to their local communities,” he said.

Duke spoke at the ACC on a wide range of aging issues, but emphasized the keystone concept of all of the programs available to seniors can be summed up in two words: “Being there.”

There are more than 17 programs overseen by the Department of Aging that are aimed at services to help in the aging process. “We want to make sure that Pennsylvanians age and live well,” Duke said, noting that last year the department touched the lives of 1 million state residents.

The expansion of services has required a strong commitment in state funding, he said, noting that Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget last year and this year have represented the largest investment in aging programs in the 35-year history of the department.

Pennsylvania, he noted, ranks fourth in the nation in the number of people over the age of 60, and that percentage is growing to the extent that within a few years one in every four residents of the state will fall into that category.

While the traditional needs for long-term care continue, aging programs have expanded to include more emphasis on keeping people independent and keeping them in their homes while still safeguarding them and assisting them in the community.

And, in the past several months, the governor received a report from a commission he appointed to study the problems associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and related disorders (ADRD). The report, which considered the plight of more than 400,000 people in the state who suffer from the disease as well as their care givers, recommended seven courses of action:

– Improve awareness, knowledge, and sense of urgency about medical, social, and financial implications of ADRD across the commonwealth

– Due to the magnitude of the ADRD epidemic, identify and where possible, expand financial resources to implement this plan through federal, state, foundation, private and other innovative funding mechanisms and partnerships.

– Promote brain health and cognitive fitness across the life cycle from birth onward.

– Provide a comprehensive continuum of ethical care and support that responds to social and cultural diversity, with services and supports ranging from early detection and diagnosis through end-of-life care.

– Enhance support for family and non-professional caregivers and those living with ADRD.

– Build and retain a competent, knowledgeable, ethical, and caring workforce.

– Promote and support novel and ongoing research to find better and effective cures, treatments, and prevention strategies for ADRD.

Duke said the importance of “being there,” representing the support and companionship offered through aging programs, was exemplified in a conversation he had with a woman he met during a senior games event in Potter County. The woman approached him to promote her local senior center and asked for its support, explaining, “‘It saved my life,'” he related. “She was recently widowed and alone,” he said, and told him that she wouldn’t leave her house. After a friend convinced her to at least attend a couple lunches, her senior center became an important part of her new life.

“She is now on the board of that senior center,” he said. “It is all about being there; you here at the Allegheny Center know that.”