By Jason Kavulich
Pennsylvania is home to more than 13 million people according to the 2020 Census, with more than 2.5 million of those residents being aged 65 and older. The growth rate of the Commonwealth's older adult population is more than 20 times higher than the growth rate of its entire population. As the population ages, we expect many will remain here to live out their golden years. According to U.S. News & World Report, that seems to be a good thing.
The company recently released its ranking of the 150 best places to retire in the U.SOpens In A New Window. and seven of the top 10 are in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg took top honors, followed by Reading, Lancaster, Scranton, Allentown, York, and Pittsburgh. The company looked at six areas as part of its ranking results: affordability, happiness, desirability, retiree taxes, job market, and health care quality.
As a lifelong Scrantonian and proud Pennsylvanian, I'm boastful of Scranton's #4 ranking, and not at all surprised by our state's showing. Scranton and its surrounding communities, that I know so well, represent what I see as I travel across our amazing Commonwealth: welcoming communities that take an interest in the health, safety and well-being of their neighbors working with committed civic leaders to make sure we have the programs, supports, and services we need for older adults to live with dignity, independence and above all else, age in place.
One of many critical factors that sets us apart is the Pennsylvania Lottery -- the only state lottery that designates all its proceeds to programs for older adults. That money translates into supports offered through the Commonwealth's 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), which coordinate services on the local level including home-delivered meals, 500 Senior Centers, in-home services, protective services, and more. The Lottery proceeds also support the PACE program, a national model which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary of providing low-cost prescriptions to over 1.6 million qualified older Pennsylvanians.
Another popular Lottery-funded program serving older adults for decades is the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program (PTRR). Administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, this program provides older adults rebates on property taxes and rent paid in a previous year.
Starting in January 2024, this popular program will see some much overdue updates thanks to Governor Josh Shapiro. In his inaugural budget, he delivered the largest targeted tax break for older Pennsylvanians in nearly two decades. The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program expansion will raise the maximum amount of the rebates, increase income limit eligibility, and tie the income caps to the cost-of-living moving forward.
The Governor's budget also invested an additional $1 million in Senior Community Center grants to create a non-competitive grant program. This will allow more centers to receive grants to continue creating safe spaces for seniors to stay connected, improve their physical and emotional health, continue on the path of lifelong learning and share a meal with a neighbor. The budget allocated an additional $5 million to the Help at Home (OPTIONS) program which aids eligible adults to continue living in their homes. This funding will assist in removing more than 1,200 older adults from existing waitlists..
In addition to those investments for seniors, Governor Shapiro signed an executive order in May to direct the Department to develop a Master Plan for Older Adults. This plan is a 10-year, state-led and stakeholder-driven strategic plan designed to help transform the infrastructure and coordination of services for older Pennsylvanians.
The Department and our stakeholder partners are currently reviewing input on the plan from thousands of Pennsylvanians and will accept input until the end of the year. If anyone plans on aging in this Commonwealth, I invite them to provide feedback. Everyone can learn the various ways they can have their voices heard by visiting the Master Plan webpage on the department's website. The Master Plan will be published before the Governor's second budget address in February 2024, and it will chart a brighter future for aging in Pennsylvania.
It's clear why Pennsylvania dominates U.S. News and World's list: not only do we have a growing population of older adults, but Pennsylvania has also taken critical steps to allow them to remain in their homes and to be active in their communities.. The health, well-being and quality of life for older Pennsylvanians are clear priorities for the Shapiro Administration, the Commonwealth, and the Department. For any older adult who may be seeking services and supports in their community, I encourage them to visit the Department of Aging's website or contact their local AAA. We are here to help achieve that brighter future for all.
Jason Kavulich is the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
Harmonious Healing: Benefits of Music Therapy for SeniorsFebruary 6, 2024 | Tiffany Wyndham Hunt, MA, MT-BC, Music Therapist Board CertifiedAs we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes, and maintaining a good quality of life can become a challenge. In this pursuit of well-being, music therapy for seniors has emerged as a powerful and uplifting tool. Beyond being a source of joy and entertainment, music therapy has proven to offer physical, emotional and cognitive benefits for supporting quality of life.Music Therapy ExplainedWhat is music therapy anyway? According to the American Music Therapy Association, its the use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music therapy is administered by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.Enhancing Cognitive FunctionMusic has a unique ability to stimulate multiple regions of the brain simultaneously. For seniors, especially those dealing with cognitive decline or dementia, participating in music therapy can help activate neural pathways and improve their cognitive function. The rhythm, melody, harmonic progression, instrumentation, style of music, and so many other aspects can support reminiscence and memories, communication, alertness, engagement and cognitive response.Breakthrough BehaviorsBarbara, a CC Young memory support resident, appeared tired and, when asked by our music therapist how she was doing, she commonly answered that she was hanging in there. During one music therapy session, Barbara was given a small tambourine and naturally began to play it. Barbara gradually became more engaged, including the time when Take Me Home, Country Roads was playing, and she commented, Virginia is far away. This was an exciting breakthrough during the session, as Barbara had been reluctant to participate.Emotional Well-BeingMusic has a powerful and scientifically based ability to evoke emotions and memories. Due to changing living circumstances that often accompany aging, seniors may face challenges such as loneliness, depression or anxiety. Music therapy offers an emotional outlet, comfort, relaxation and a sense of connection. Listening to or singing familiar tunes or participating in music-making activities lifts spirits, reduces stress and creates a positive emotional environment. Music is innate in our culture, and it is therefore a source of grounding. So when music is intentionally employed by a music therapist, it can produce noticeable comfort, enjoyment and camaraderie.At the beginning of one particular group music therapy session, CC Young resident Rose was dozing in her chair. When approached by our music therapist who was playing the song New York, New York, Rose awoke with a big smile, began singing along and played a hand drum while moving to the beat of the music. She perked up, sharing with the group memories of her times visiting New York City and how much she loved shopping there.Physical RehabilitationMusic therapy programs for seniors dealing with physical ailments or limitations can also be integrated into rehabilitation plans of care. The rhythmic patterns and coordinated movements associated with music aid in improving motor skills, coordination and overall physical well-being. Whether through dance, rhythmic exercises or playing instruments, seniors experience benefits in movement that promote physical and mental health, often aiding their rehab and road to recovery.Social ConnectionMusic brings people together and finds common ground regardless of race, language and socio-economic factors. Music therapy does the same thing. Through group activities or one-on-one sessions, it creates a sense of community and social connection. Group singing, drum circles or interactive musical games provide opportunities for social interaction, which reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. Music therapy creates a sense of belonging and emotional support.Habla EspaolAt CC Young, occasionally, we will care for a resident for whom English is a second language. When Julio came to CC Young for rehab services, he was encouraged to participate in music therapy as part of his care plan. He was delighted to know the music therapist spoke Spanish and had fun joining the therapist in singing Spanish hymns.Improved Sleep QualitySleep disorders are common among seniors, and they can affect physical and mental health. According to UC Davis Health, music at around 60 beats per minute, which is the same as a relaxed heart, can slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and promote better sleep patterns, contributing to overall improvement in quality of sleep. Likewise, listening to calming music before bedtime or incorporating music into relaxation routines can promote better sleep patterns and contribute to an overall improvement in sleep quality.In the symphony of life, music therapy stands out as a harmonious healer on multiple levels for older adults. Music therapys ability to address physical, emotional and cognitive well-being makes it a valuable and accessible tool for seniors. As we continue to explore the therapeutic potential of music, it becomes increasingly clear that the melody of life can be enriched, and the challenges of aging can be met with the uplifting power of music therapy.Want to learn more about music therapy for seniors? Contact us and get in touch with a CC Young senior living expert today.
Youve been on a waiting list for a senior living facility for years. In the meantime, your dream cruise is planned and that family reunion is around the corner...then you get the call." If youre like many downsizing Seniors the question echoing in your mind is; What do I do about the house? Here is a quick guide that can give you the confidence and structure that you need. First, take a breathyou can do this! Next, identify a trusted Realtor who has genuine experience helping Seniors. Start by looking for Realtors that have the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation. Seniors and their families need a Realtor to help navigate the maze of financial, legal, and emotional issues accompanying the sale of your memory filled home. Im a longtime SRES and still depend on this special training to help Seniors through the process. It may sound old school, but a Realtor who listens deeply and communicates with a smile, handshake, and a visit is a must. Skills like patience, planning, and guiding are critical. Invite your Realtor in as early as possible to walk through the home to learn its unique character and story! Look for a Realtor who can translate the story into a plan to market that uniqueness. Part of their role will be to help you understand how to prepare your home for the marketwhat projects to tackle, which ones to ignore, and how to not go overboard as you prepare to sell. Like all top Realtors, we have a handy list of trusted resources to help tackle agreed upon projects. Pricing should be based on reality and facts, not hopes and dreams. Location, size, and amenities are part of the equation as are market activity, market trends, and area competition. Over the years, weve developed a very customized, yet simple, tool to accurately forecast list and sale prices. All top Realtors will have something similar in their tool belt. Be comfortable asking questionsworking with a Realtor should be a collaboration, not a dictatorship. Using a professional stager and photographer is another must do in todays market. Digital marketing demands high quality, properly lit, compelling photos of an expertly staged homed so that it shines and tells its story clearly. Every Realtor handles this differently, but we believe in this concept so strongly that we provide both a stager and photographer at no cost to our listing clientsit is just too important to skip. These are the steps that lead to the For Sale signand hopefully the ability to breathe a bit easier. This article was written by Mike Julian, Managing Broker, Realty One Group Unlimited.
This informative, brief article explores the pros and cons of an older adult moving into a community living situation vs aging at home. There are many factors to consider, and the decision is not "one size fits all". By reviewing the options and the care needs of the person who is aging, a thoughtful, safe and happy living situation is possible, especially when a move to a place like Kavod Senior Life (among others) may dispel some misgivings or concerns. See what YOU think - read on!