As Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget is calling for human services funding cuts of nearly a third, York County's growing older population needs more services to keep seniors living in their homes.
A new plan for the York County Area Agency on Aging will guide the care of the county's older population over the next four years. Agency director Dianna Benaknin said funding will be the biggest challenge standing in the way of the newly established goals.
The county commissioners on Wednesday approved the plan, which outlines the top concerns of older Yorkers as well as the agency's goals and strategies to deal with them. While county officials are still trying to determine the impact of Corbett's budget - if it passes - on the agency's $8.57 million budget, Benaknin said community partnerships will be increasingly important.
The plan shows nearly 6,700 Yorkers age 55 and older were living at or below the poverty level, $11,170 per year.
"Our primary commitment must remain to those at the greatest social and economic risk," the plan outlines. "However, without supplemental revenue sources, we will fall short of that mission."
Though funding details remain uncertain, Benaknin said "significant" cuts are expected and some measures are already being taken to reduce costs, including not filling some open staff positions.
The county is also, on June 1, starting a waiting list for funding of respite care for caregivers. Through the program, people who are primary caregivers of a person 60 or older are reimbursed for some expenses. For example, a daughter who cares for her mother but hires a nurse so she can take a break once per week would be eligible for some reimbursement of the cost of the nurse.
People who already receiving the reimbursement will continue to receive it, but new applicants will, for the first time in several years, have to wait for an opening, she said.
Of York's 475,000 people, 86,800 are 60 or older. Projections by the Pennsylvania State Data Center show that number growing 12 percent over the next three years, to more than 97,500, said Beth Kehler, director of public relations and advocacy at the agency.
The plan shows more than 20 percent of Yorkers age 65 or older worked in the last year, and 4 percent of those age 75 and older were employed. More than 11,000 people age 75 or older are still paying a mortgage on a primary residence.
Kehler said surveys were sent to 2,500 older Yorkers, and about 27 percent of them responded. Their top concerns included medical insurance, medication, taxes, and wellness and prevention and transportation and housing.
A top goal of the agency will remain to help seniors "age in place," staying in their homes instead of moving to a facility, Benaknin said.
Not only is it less expensive for taxpayers, but it's generally the person's preference, she said.
Many of the agency's programs are designed to keep seniors in their homes, promoting wellness and freedom from chronic diseases that force a move, she said.
For example, studies show proper nutrition and socialization can stave off the onset of some chronic diseases. For that reason, the agency has increased the number of people eligible to eat meals at senior centers.
Another program looks to improve balance and coordination to reduce the risk of falls, which are a leading cause of death in older Yorkers and are often a reason they need to move from their homes, she said.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436, email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @YDYorkCounty.