HARRISBURG, Pa. (WENY) -- Following the auditor general's report that Pennsylvania is ill-prepared to serve the commonwealth's aging population, the PCoA has unanimously voted to support the governor's Restore PA initiative.

The Pennsylvania Council on Aging advocates for seniors in the Keystone State, and identified specific measures as to how Restore PA could benefit seniors across the state:

Storm preparedness and natural recovery

Older adults can find themselves extremely vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster due to mobility, health issues, or social isolation. PCoA points out that historically, older adults comprise the largest pool of victims in natural disasters of any age group. In a 2017 survey, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) found that only 26 percent of Pennsylvanians age 65 and older had a plan in place for disaster circumstances. This leaves a majority of seniors across the state unprepared to act in advance for storms or natural disasters. Additionally, seniors are often re-victimized following natural disasters as they try to recover. Lack of access to necessary medication in a timely manner, physical support, and financial means can hold back a senior as they try to acclimate after a natural disaster. Restore Pennsylvania outlines support that can help seniors regain their independence after a natural disaster, so they can remain in their communities and continue to know a similar way of life.

Public transportation

PCoA recognizes that nationally, a quarter of adults over 65 do not drive, so many seniors rely on public transportation for social and healthcare-related needs. This keeps them connected in their communities, and gives them the sense of independence that comes with being able to get to and from appointments, family, and friends. Currently, infrastructure for bus shelters and adequate seating for older adults is lacking in many rural areas of the commonwealth, and these are accommodations that seniors both need and rely on to get them safely to and from their commitments. Restore Pennsylvania plans to upgrade back roads and improve roadways and public transit overall.

Contaminant remediation

Seniors already tend to have more lead content in their systems than any other age group because they have lived a longer period of time or they may have been exposed to lead in unregulated occupations in their past. Epidemiological studies have found that older adults have higher blood and bone lead levels than younger adults, and lead contamination is a significant threat to older adults. Once lead enters the body, it circulates the blood and reaches soft tissues and bone, and then hibernates within bones for decades. Blood and bone lead levels are associated with hypertension, renal insufficiency, and cognitive impairment. This is a cycle that cannot continue for aging Pennsylvanians, and Restore Pennsylvania would assist communities in removing contaminants from homes, schools, and public buildings.

Social isolation

Seniors living in rural areas are likely to experience social isolation, which can lead to depression, lack of self-care, loneliness, and more. It is important that older adults are able to connect with friends, family, and healthcare practitioners to remain connected and healthy. With seniors making up the fastest-growing age group to use technology, when they are given the opportunity to learn about technology and how to use it, their communication with family and friends increases. Access to broadband as outlined in the Restore Pennsylvania initiative would help combat seniors’ potential for social isolation and give them access to telehealth options in their areas as they become available.