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At Dept. of Aging listening sessions, Blair seniors' concerns include transportation and internet access

The outside of the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom in Blair County. Stairs with railing lead up to the building with a road in between. The doors are open for a listening session hosted by the Pennsylvania Department on Aging.
Sydney Roach
The PA Department of Aging listening session in Blair County took place Aug. 22, 2023, at the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is hosting listening stations in every county to learn what problems to focus on in a 10-year master plan to support older adults.

Transportation was one of the biggest topics attendees brought up at the listening session in Blair County, which was hosted at the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom.

“There’s very little transportation in the evenings for anyone,” said Howard Ermin, who lives in Altoona. Hermin said the public transportation that does exist only runs until about 6 p.m., which makes it difficult for older adults or people with disabilities to go to social events or get their shopping done.

Lois Beer, who also lives in Altoona, said there aren’t enough safe sidewalks for older adults.

“The little short distance that I habitually walk, I have to walk looking down almost all the time. Sidewalks are broken, heaved, tree roots coming this way,” Beer said.

Another topic the Blair seniors discussed was access to healthcare and communications. Beer said internet services cost too much for people on fixed incomes from social security.

“You can’t eat it or wear it. It can’t take you anywhere other than in your head. Unfortunately it’s just something people can still survive without,” Beer said.

The Master Plan will be published on or before Feb. 1, 2024. The Department of Aging says the plan will identify both “quick wins” and more aspirational goals.

Listening sessions are still scheduled for August and September. Some counties do not have a scheduled date yet. The next virtual session will be on Friday morning.

You can find the list of listening sessions and the registration link for Friday’s virtual session on the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s website.

Sydney Roach is a reporter and host for WPSU with a passion for radio and community stories.