Aging Dept. secretary visits center
BY MICHAEL WINTERMUTE
Wyoming County Press Examiner
When members of the Falls Active Adult Center learned of an important visitor, they knew just how to greet him – a spirited drum circle.
Pennsylvania Department of Aging secretary Brian Duke could not have been more pleased.
“I am so grateful – I have never been greeted by a drum circle before,” Duke said. “I can tell that this is a special community; I can tell you all enjoy being here.”
Duke was visiting the center on behalf of the PDA in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Area Agencies on Aging.
The tour is designed to inform seniors of the PDA’s current undertakings and this particular stop was organized in conjunction with the Luzerne/Wyoming County AAA director Trula Hollywood.
The tour is primarily to inform senior citizens of funding recently approved by Governor Tom Corbett.
According to Duke, the governor saw an increased need for older citizens of the Commonwealth and in turn approved an additional $50 million to serve them.
That $50 million will be divided into five different areas:
*$21 million to in-home assistance
*$20 million to the options program
*$5 million to the 52 AAAs statewide
*$2 million to seniors with disabilities
*2 million to a competitive grant for senior centers
Duke said the $50 million budget increase is the single largest investment since the Agency on Aging was created.
Duke went on to inform seniors of the four-step state plan on aging, which focused primarily on aiding seniors in navigating the complex systems of care management services.
The plan, he added, would also focus on nutrition programs and community wellness, as well as statistical assessments of the PDA’s success.
Another part of his visit informed seniors of the serious and proactive stance the PDA and AAA are taking on Alzheimer’s disease.
“The governor felt Alzheimer’s needed more attention so by executive order, he created the Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Disease Planning Committee,” Duke said.
By Feb. 2014, the committee will submit a plan to Gov. Corbett on steps recommended for informing seniors on Alzheimer’s and managing those with the disease.
Following his presentation, Duke answered questions and concerns from seniors.
The most voiced concerns centered on nutrition, funds for more art programs and cell service in the area.
Sen. Lisa Baker encouraged the center’s management to apply for grants and funds allocated in the revised budget, saying she would lobby on behalf of the center.
The Falls Active Adult Center is one of the most active and participatory centers in the area, according to Hollywood.
“The community is both the strength and weakness,” Hollywood said. “The people are very supportive and active, but access to resources in this area can be difficult.”
The center’s manager, Twila Watkins, feels her management over the last three years has helped to improve how active the center remains.
“It’s important for me to have more programs, to have alternative programs and to have publicity in the area so people know all of the things that are going on here,” Watkins said.
Furthermore, the center is notably more progressive with activities like the drum circle, an outdoor garden and an increasing participation in a worldwide trending activity, geocaching.
Geocaching is an electronically-fueled scavenger hunt in which participants use GPS and other tools to locate boxes planted all over the world.
Tina Seidel, AAA volunteer and employee at United Disabilities Services, organized the geocache exercises and said the results have been evident.
“We have some individuals who have continually improved the distance they’re able to trek for the activity, so it’s obviously physically supportive,” Seidel said.
Seidel also feels that having seniors partake in such an exciting and technologically-based activity is good for keeping their mental health in check.
Also in attendance were Sen. Lisa Baker, Rep. Karen Boback and representatives for Rep. Phyllis Mundy and Rep. Sandra Major.
“I’m so thrilled that Secty. Duke has gone out of his way to visit this center,” Baker said. “It is really important for him to get a sense of how different the rural population is.”
The Falls center was Duke’s 78th stop on the statewide tour.
IN PHOTO: State representatives attended a discussion from the state Aging Dept. on Monday. From left, Sen. Lisa Baker, Rep. Karen Boback, Dir. for the area Agency on Aging Trula Hollywood, Aging Dept. Secy. Brian Duke, legislative aide for Rep. Phyllis Mundy Eileen Cipriani and Falls center manager Twila Watkins.