Resources for Seniors in Pennsylvania
About four out of ten citizens in Pennsylvania are 50+. With a median age of 40.9, Pennsylvania is the eighth state with the highest median age. The state has a 96.60 housing index, meaning it is affordable for seniors to retire here. A one-bedroom apartment costs an average of $759 a month. Plus, the state has several resources and programs to enable seniors to thrive.
In Pennsylvania, a person aged at least 60 is considered a senior, and to receive full benefits under Social Security, a person must attain the age of at least 65. Many services and programs rarely consider seniors aged below 65, including Medicare. But the state has other nonprofit organizations providing support services to younger seniors.
Living Options for Seniors in Pennsylvania
Retirees in Pennsylvania have several options for living to choose from:
- Independent Living: There are over 700 independent living facilities costing between $508 and $4,222 per month. Seniors can choose from an array of department options in 55+ or 65+ living communities. Older adults looking to join these facilities are always active and willing to remain independent. The communities offer amenities such as meeting rooms, Jacuzzis, walking trails, pools, and fitness centers.
- Assisted Living: This option is suitable for elderly persons in need of some help with daily tasks, including bathing, grooming, preparing meals, and sometimes feeding. These seniors also have access to healthcare services when in need. Other services include transportation, laundry, and 24-hour safety surveillance. The facilities are 800 in Pennsylvania and cost anywhere between $925 and $7,677 per month.
- Memory Care Facilities: These institutions are for seniors suffering from memory-related illnesses, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. There are 600 memory care facilities in the state and they cost between $1,341 and $11,131 per month.
- Nursing Homes: This category includes day care, hospices, and respite care institutions, totaling 1,900. Daycare facilities are designed to keep seniors physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy, and they are 120 in number. Daycares cost between $900 and $5,130 per month. Hospices provide extensive care, counseling services, and medication support to manage seniors undergoing emotional and physical pain. Hospices are 570 and cost anywhere between $3,330 and $6,000. Respite Care Facilities offer tender loving care to give caregivers some time for a break and recharge. The 790 respite care institutions in Pennsylvania are costing between $6,960 and $19,575.
Seniors or their loved ones should opt for one of these facilities, depending on their needs and circumstances.
Pennsylvania Department of Aging
The goal of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging is to make quality services and programs accessible to seniors to enable them to undergo healthy aging. Established in 1978, the Department advocates for the rights and interests of older adults, ensuring they receive the support services they need through its network of 52 local Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). Serving in the state’s 47 counties. Various programs and services are available to seniors through this department and are geared to helping them thrive in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
Services and Programs Under the Department of Aging
Help at Home (OPTIONS)
The help at Home or OPTIONS program, sometimes called, is dedicated to providing support to older residents of Pennsylvania who are interested in remaining in their homes. The program offer support through four main services, including:
- Adult Day Services help older adults suffering from functional impairments or diseases related to memory, like Dementia.
- Care Management services are designed to ensure seniors’ personal, social, and healthcare needs are being met.
- In-Home Meal services ensure seniors have meals delivered to their homes. The aim here is to provide nutritional support and ensure older adults get all the nutrients their bodies need to lead healthy lives.
- Personal Care Services helps older adults with daily tasks, including grooming, dressing, prescription management, preparing meals, feeding, and bathing, among others.
Supplemental Aging Services
These services may be available, but not in all areas:
- Emergent Services – Include services provided in case needed urgently, such as in-home meals, life-sustaining supplies, and an overnight shelter if the older adult has nowhere else to go.
- Home Health Services – Include skilled nursing, physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
- Home Modifications – Offer support with the necessary upgrades in seniors’ homes to make them safer and more accessible. Modifications may include installing grab bars in the bathrooms and widening doors to make them accessible by wheelchairs.
- Home Support – Services can include help with shopping, laundry, and housekeeping.
- Pest Control – Help seniors deal with pests causing discomfort and health hazards.
- Personal Emergency Response System – Provides electronic devices to high-risk seniors for them to use in case of emergencies.
- Specialized Medical Transportation – Offers medical transport services to older adults lying down and in need of a stretcher.
Eligibility Requirements for the Aging Services
- Must be 60 years or more.
- Must be a resident of Pennsylvania.
- Have proof of US citizenship or legal residency.
- Proof of unmet needs that affects normal daily functioning.
Note: OPTIONS do not require seniors to meet certain income limits to participate in the program. However, older adults may sometimes need to contribute towards the cost of these support services. For more information, please visit https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/help-at-Home/Pages/default.aspx.
Financial Assistance for Seniors
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services administers TANF, which is a program committed to providing seniors in need with financial support. Also known as the Cash Assistance Program, TANF’s goal is to make seniors reduce independence and achieve self-sufficiency. Social Security Numbers, income information, proof of citizenship or legal residence, and immigrant status are required at the time of application. Visit https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/TANF.aspx for more information.
Housing Assistance for Older Adults
Housing Choice Voucher Program
The housing Choice Voucher Program provides decent, affordable housing to low-income seniors. The program subsidizes the senior’s monthly rent, allowing them to contribute only 30% of their income towards rent. The Public Housing Agencies operate this program at the local level. Visit https://www.hud.gov/states/pennsylvania/homeownership/seniors for more details.
The Domiciliary Care Program
The purpose of this program is to provide housing support through a home-like living arrangement, where seniors in need of help with activities of daily living join a living community. The living communities are in family-like settings and residents are given support services, and ensure their special needs and interests are met. Dom Care Homes are nothing like the larger personal care homes, and they are certified every year to ensure they meet safety and health standards as required by the state.
Shared Housing Resource Exchange (SHARE)
SHARE is a program bringing together elderly homeowners interested in sharing their homes with home seekers in exchange for help with housing costs. It is a way of offering affordable housing to homeless seniors. This program is available in Union, Snyder, Venango, Monroe, Pike, Wayne, Adams, Carbon, and Crawford counties. visit https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/housing/Pages/SHARE.aspx for more details about the program.
ECHO – Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity
ECHO is a program offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (P4A). So, cottages are temporary residences placed in a backyard of a host family (can be a close friend or a relative) providing housing support to low-income seniors. The cottages are placed in such a way that allows for the privacy of the host family. Seniors residing in the cottages only contribute 30% of their income towards rent. Older adults receive this service through a collaboration between the local Areas Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and a local housing partner. This program is currently available in Center, Fayette, Wayne, Lackawanna, Clearfield, union, Snyder, Huntington, and Westmoreland.
Home Repair Assistance
USDA’s Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants in Pennsylvania provides non-refundable grants of up to $10,000 to senior homeowners to enable them to deal with health and safety hazards at home. The grants must be should the senior applicant resell or change the ownership of the property within three years of receiving the funds. To qualify for the program support, the older adult applying must be the homeowner and occupy the house, and include proof of homeownership. Learn more about the program at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-programs/single-family-housing-repair-loans-grants/pa.
The Philadelphia Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program (SHARP) helps older adults over 60 with repairs. Assistance is for elderly homeowners who meet the low-income eligibility requirements. Visit https://www.pcacares.org/services-for-seniors/housing-resources/ for more details.
Healthcare Assistance for Seniors
Medical Assistance for Seniors and the Disabled (Medicaid)
The Medicaid program offers healthcare support to older adults aged 65 and above. The program supports residents of long-term care services in Medicare-funded long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities. Other than that, Medicaid can pay for non-medical services aimed at supporting frail older adults to help them remain in their homes or residences of their loved ones. The Department of Human Services administers Medical Assistance. Programs under Pennsylvania Medicaid for Older Persons include:
- Nursing Home Medicaid: This program is entitled to anyone meeting the eligibility requirements, and operates only in nursing homes.
- Medicaid Waivers: These are provided to delay the need for seniors to join nursing homes, and spots for the program participants are limited, unlike Nursing Home Medicaid.
- Regular Medicaid: This program’s services are also given to any senior meeting all the eligibility requirements.
Visit https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Disabilities-Aging/Pages/MA-for-Older-People-and-People-with-Disabilities.aspx for more information.
Prescription Assistance – PACE and PACENET Programs
These programs provide prescription medication to older adults at low cost. The programs work with Medicare Part D plans, Retiree Coverage, Veteran’s Benefits, and other prescription drug plans to achieve their mission. Income limits to qualify for the programs’ support are subject to change. Other eligibility requirements include Pennsylvania residency, meeting the age limit (65+), and not being enrolled in the Medicaid prescription benefit offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Visit https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/prescriptions/Pages/default.aspx for more details.
Health and Wellness Programs
Pennsylvania Department of Aging runs Health & Wellness Programs to cultivate healthier lifestyles among seniors to improve quality of life and eventually, the overall cost of healthcare. When older adults adopt healthier lifestyles, it reduces the chances of them getting sick and being hospitalized, thus lowering their medical expenses. These programs operate under four main goals:
- Get rid of the belief that functionality declines as age advances.
- Offer information and resources older adults need to age well.
- Offer support services to seniors who need to adopt healthier lifestyles.
- Reduce dependence on the healthcare system to thrive as older adults.
Programs Under Health & Wellness Services
Chronic Disease Self-Management Program
The purpose of this program is to make seniors manage their chronic conditions on their own. The program holds weekly workshops running for two and a half hours and the goal is to provide older adults with the tools and support they need to deal with their chronic illness as well as the impacts of the diseases on their emotions and lives, generally. Visit https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/health-wellness/ChronicDiseaseManagement/Pages/default.aspx for more information.
Chronic Pain Self-Management Program
This program is designed to support seniors with a primary or secondary diagnosis of chronic pain through a six-week workshop. Chronic pain extends for over three months, which is far beyond the normal healing period. The following topics are covered in the workshop:
- How to communicate effectively with friends, families, and healthcare practitioners.
- How to balance activities and resting time.
- Evaluating new treatments.
- Exercise to maintain and enhance physical and mental health.
- Dealing with isolation, frustration, fatigue, and poor sleep.
- Medication management.
For more information about this program, please visit https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/health-wellness/ChronicPainManagement/Pages/default.aspx.
Healthy Steps in Motion – Strength & Balance Program
This program involves a workshop to encourage seniors to practice fitness and health. Older adults of all fitness levels are welcome to participate in the workshops, which comprise eight sessions taught by Certified Workshop Leaders. The goals of the program include:
- Building body strength among seniors.
- Enhancing flexibility.
- Improving body balance.
Older adults participating in the program have an incredible opportunity of enhancing their social circles and achieve both physical and emotional strength. Read more at https://www.aging.pa.gov/aging-services/health-wellness/HealthyStepsinMotion/Pages/default.aspx.
Food Assistance for Seniors
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for Older Adults
Recent studies prove that seniors undergoing food insecurity have a higher risk of developing depression, take less nutritious diets, and have the worst health outcomes. If seniors get enrolled in the SNAP program for older adults, they are less likely to suffer these problems. They will have better health, thereby reducing the need for long-term care. The program support is based on the availability of funds and income eligibility of senior applicants. Requirements during application include social security numbers, current income information, and expenses related to housing, including rent or mortgage ad medical expenses. Visit https://www.compass.state.pa.us/ to apply for SNAP for the elderly. Or, find your county assistance office here. More information is available at https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/SNAP-Older-Adults.aspx.
Senior Food Box Program
This program works to enhance the health of low-income older adults through nutritious USDA Foods that are designed to supplement their diets. Note that, the program does not offer full diets. Rather, their services are means to provide nutrients lacking in the current diets of seniors. Some foods older adults can get through this program include juice, oats, and ready-to-eat cereal. Pasta, rice, dry beans, peanut butter, canned meat, and fish, among others. The USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program supports this program. https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Food/food_assistance/Commodity%20Supplemental%20Food%20Program/Pages/default.aspx#:~:text=The%20Senior%20Food%20Box%20Program,of%20the%20U.S.%20poverty%20level.
Help Paying Bills
Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)
The goal of LIHWAP is to help low-income seniors pay their overdue water bills. The program provides cash assistance in form of grants, which older adults do not have to repay. The program is available for older adults facing emergencies or at risk of having their water service disconnected for failure to pay their bills. Grants are available for drinking and wastewater, each up to $2,500. According to this program, circumstances considered emergency are:
- Having past-due water bills.
- Disconnection from water service.
- At the risk of disconnection from water service (received a 60-day notice of service termination if bills are not settled within that period).
More information is available at https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/LIHWAP.aspx.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP provides financial support through grants to low-income seniors to help them pay their home energy costs. Through this program, seniors can also have access to repair/replacement of heating/cooling equipment if the ones they have are defective. Visit https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/LIHEAP.aspx for more information.
Transportation Assistance for Seniors
Free Transit Program for Senior Citizens
The purpose of this program is to provide free rides to older adults on local fixed-route services through the public transportation system. That means seniors participating in this program can only get free rides within the hours of operation of the public transit system. Older adults looking for these free rides should have senior citizens’ transit identification cards. They will get these cards from the local transit operators participating in the program. A document proving the age of the senior will be required. Learn more about the program at https://www.penndot.pa.gov/TravelInPA/PublicTransitOptions/Pages/Seniors-and-Persons-With-Disabilities.aspx#:~:text=Free%20Transit%20Program%20for%20Senior,senior%20citizen%20transit%20identification%20card.
Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency of Aging, Inc.
This Area Agency on Aging works in Greene, Washington, and Fayette counties to offer transportation services to older adults. Through the services, senior citizens can get free rides to senior centers located nearby or to adult care. The elderly persons in need of transportation services to get to their medical appointments may need to contribute slightly to the fare, while those heading to social gatherings or recreational and work trips pay a slightly higher amount. Visit https://www.swpa-aaa.org/SWPA_transportation.php for more information.
Assistance for Senior Disabled and Veterans
Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
The Office of Veterans Affairs provides information and services to aging veterans. Several benefits are available at the federal, state, and local levels to support these older persons.
Amputee and Paralyzed Veteran Pension: The purpose of this program is to offer a monthly pension to senior veterans, which pays them $150 per month. More information is available at https://www.dmva.pa.gov/veteransaffairs/Pages/Programs%20and%20Services/Amputee-and-Paralyzed-Pension.aspx.
Blind Veterans Pension: Offers older blind veterans a $150 monthly pension. Read more at https://www.dmva.pa.gov/veteransaffairs/Pages/Programs%20and%20Services/Blind-Veterans-Pension.aspx.
Military Family Relief Assistance Program (MFRAP): Offers financial support through grants to older military members and their families. To qualify, older adults must demonstrate the need for financial assistance i.e., caused by circumstances beyond their control. The senior military members in need of assistance must present a document, and the amount must not exceed $3,500. Circumstances considered include; loss of income, emergency child care support, death of a spouse or a loved one, and disasters resulting in homelessness, lack of food, and other basic needs. Visit https://www.dmva.pa.gov/veteransaffairs/Pages/Programs%20and%20Services/Military-Family-Relief-Assistance-Program.aspx for more details about the program.
Assistance By Charities and Nonprofits
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
Boasting over 39 million members, AARP is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all seniors aged 50+ by offering the necessary information, and services, and advocating for their rights and interests. Find more information at https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Disabilities-Aging/Pages/MA-for-Older-People-and-People-with-Disabilities.aspx.
Volunteers of America Pennsylvania
Volunteers of America is committed to serving the needs of the elderly through programs and services dedicated to addressing their most pressing social needs. The organization’s services include mental health, daycare, counseling, and transportation for seniors and the disabled. The organization also supports seniors and veterans with housing needs, including those at risk of suffering homelessness. More information is available at https://www.voapa.org//