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In this November 6, 2015 photo, an elderly couple walk through the auditorium of a nursing home in Easton, Pennsylvania Matt Roark/AP Photo

(The Center Square) — State officials presented a major 10-year statute of limitations plan to lawmakers this week as Pennsylvania approaches a looming demographic cliff.

It is estimated that 25% of the population will be over the age of 64 by 2030, making Pennsylvania one of the oldest states in the country. Center Square previously reported that declining birth rates, unaffordability of college, and stagnant economic development — all reinforced by pandemic outages — reinforce the trend.

We are fifth in the nation

population aged 60 years and over,said Kevin Hancock, special advisor to the Secretary on Aging and director of the Department of Aging’s Aging Care Council, during a public hearing this week. “We have 11% of Pennsylvanians who express a motor or cognitive disability.”

That’s why, says Hancock, Penn State should move quickly on its own master plan. The programs are in five other states and 11 others are creating their own programs.

“We often don’t do things first, but when we do, we do them quickly.” Hancock said.

He said the master plan would include five core principles: transparency; embed diversity, equality, and inclusion; address the principles of person-centered planning; Create a living document and reframe the conversation about older people and individuals with disabilities.

The Department of Aging will schedule in-person hearings over the summer, with the goal of holding at least one hearing in each county or ensuring that each county is represented by its district. This section of the plan will be completed by February 2024.

However, Hancock said the department does not want to set specific goals, objectives or initiatives until the hearings happen.

“The issue is not a closed door in this process and we want to make sure everyone is heard,” He said. “We want to fix some of the perceived wrongs we’re seeing in the country and we think this is a great opportunity to do that.”

Attracting a strong workforce to fill the need for health care and other jobs related to aging services is high on the list of obstacles that the country must overcome.

“My question, and by far my biggest concern, is about the workforce,” said Representative Mike Jones, R-York. “My concern is that we may underestimate this problem 3-5 to 10 years in the future.”

For Medicare and long-term care, lower wages are not the only issue at hand to attract young workers.

“I think it is one of the most important good deeds a person can do, but it is also in some ways the most undesirable,” Jones said. “Money can solve part of this problem, but I’m not sure that putting money into reimbursement and salaries will solve it.”

“The long-term care business is a craft,” Hancock said. “How do we frame work as a profession and make individuals who might otherwise look at other types of work realize how incredibly important, valuable and contributing this will be both an opportunity and a challenge.”

Above all, Hancock said, the master plan will recognize the importance of seniors and disabled residents of Pennsylvania.

“We want seniors and individuals with disabilities to be celebrated for what they can bring to our communities and our state.” He said.

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