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The state of Pennsylvania is a state in the Northeastern part of America that has been historically known for its’ steel mills, Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, and the state’s Amish communities. With all the activities that are available in this historic state, is Pennsylvania a good choice for a senior looking to retire? Pennsylvania is the 6th most populated state in America with an estimated 13 million people. It has an area of 48,055 square miles and is the 33rd largest state in the nation. The state density is 9th in the nation with 284 people per square mile. It has a high percentage of senior citizens at 16.69%, ranking 5th in the United States.
Costs of Assisted Living in Pennsylvania
The cost for Assisted Living Care in Pennsylvania state averages to $3,600 per month, (over $43,000 a year). The costs vary greatly from city to city - for example, Gettysburg assisted living facilities cost only $2500 per month, while Lancaster ones are $5100 per month. The costs also may fluctuate from facility to facility for Pennsylvania seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's.
The U.S. average cost for Assisted Living is $3,293 per month, but Pennsylvania's assisted living is more expensive because it has a higher general higher cost of living than the national average. Nursing homes in Pennsylvania are much more expensive than assisted living facilities - with semi-private rooms costing over $108,000 per year, and a private room carrying a cost of $117,000 annually.
Adult Day Health Care in Pennsylvania averages $1,300 per month or around $15,500 per year. A Home Health Aide in Pennsylvania costs, on average $4,100 a month, over $50,00 annually. This is almost $6,000 more than the cost of an Assisted Living Facility in PA. The cost of a Home Health Aide is based on a 44-hour-week, whereas Assisted Living provides 24-hour care. To receive comparable care at home you would need 3.8 Home Health Aides per week which would cost around $15,600 every month. Home Health Aides usually do not do housekeeping nor do they come with licensed nurses that you find in Assisted Living Facilities. It is estimated that by the year 2030, Assisted Living in Pennsylvania will cost over $65,000 per year – an increase of around $20,000.
Within Pennsylvania itself, the costs of Assisted Living Care vary as well, for example, these are the latest approximate costs of a monthly stay in an Assisted Living Facility:
- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - $2,500;
- Scranton Area, Pennsylvania - $2,800;
- East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania - $2,800;
- Reading, Pennsylvania - $3,000;
- Erie, Pennsylvania - $3,300;
- State College, Pennsylvania - $3,500;
- Williamsport, Pennsylvania - $3,500;
- Bloomsburg Area, Pennsylvania - $3,600;
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - $3,600;
- Johnstown, Pennsylvania - $3,600;
- Lebanon, Pennsylvania - $3,700;
- Allentown Area, Pennsylvania - $3,800;
- York Area, Pennsylvania - $4,000;
- Altoona, Pennsylvania - $4,140;
- Chambersburg Area, Pennsylvania - $4,200;
- Philadelphia Area, Pennsylvania - $4,400;
- Watertown Area, Pennsylvania - $4,560;
- Harrisburg Area, Pennsylvania - $5,000;
- Lancaster, Pennsylvania - $5,100;
Who pays for Assisted Living Care in Pennsylvania?
Generally speaking, Pennsylvania Assisted Living care costs are paid for by Pennsylvania elderly or their families. The state of Pennsylvania has quite a few waiver programs for Home and Community Based Services (HBCS) and LTC Facility Services. Those who have a medical need for LTC services are able to choose which programs they wish to participate in as long as they meet the non-financial as well as the financial medical assistance eligibility requirements.
Currently, the state of Pennsylvania has a total of twelve Home and Community Based Services waivers, however they are not all specifically for older adults: The programs that are specifically for seniors are as follows:
- Aging Waiver – a person must be 60-years or older; meet nursing level care criteria, and yet wish to be treated in their homes or in another community-based setting. Services provided to those who are eligible under this waiver include:
- Adult Day Services Center;
- Attendant Care;
- Environmental Modifications;
- Home health care;
- Specialized Medical Equipment and supplies;
- Companion Services;
- Respite Care;
- Home-Delivered Meals;
- Extended Physician Services;
- Personal Care Services; and
- Personal emergency response system.
- LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly Program also known as LTCCAP)
This is a managed care program that provide a comprehensive all-inclusive package of medical and supportive services. This is Pennsylvania’s answer to the PACE program “Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, that is throughout all the country. PACE providers are easy to find in Pennsylvania as they all have the name “LIFE” in their name.
Eligibility requirements for Living Independent for the Elderly Program include:
- Pennsylvania senior must be age 55 or older;
- Meet the level or care that has traditionally required nursing home placement;
- Meet the financial requirements determined by your local County Assistance Office or be financially available to pay for the services privately;
- Live in area served by a LIFE provider; and
- Able to live in the community safely.
Other Waiver programs in Pennsylvania that are non-specific to an older age group:
- Attendant Care/Act 150 – available to those Pennsylvania residents who have a physical disability, this state funded program may be available to you so that you may continue to live in your home and/or community with support and services.
Eligibility requirements include:
- The person must reside in Pennsylvania;
- Must need a level of care that has typically been associated with Skilled Nursing Facility Care;
- Must be between the ages of 18 and 59;
- Must be able to:
- Hire, supervise and fire care workers;
- Manage personal finances; and
- Managing personal legal affairs.
- The person must also be able to satisfy financial limits set by the County Assistance Office;
- The person is physically impaired (and has a medical diagnosis for the impairment), whereas they expect to stay impaired for at least 1 year or where the impairement can result in death.
- To take advantage of the Attendant Care Act 150 Program, Pennsylvania residents may need to pay a small co-payment, based on the person's income and not to exceed the cost of services.
Services that may be available to people receiving the Attendant Care Waiver include:
- Community Transition Services (available only through Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Services);
- Participant-Directed Community Supports;
- Personal Assistance Services;
- Personal Emergency Response System (PERS); and
- Service Coordination.
- Independence Waiver – this waiver is for those who are 18-years-of age or older and require a nursing facility level of care. The eligibility requirements for this waiver include:
- Age 18 and older;
- Requires what has historically been level or care reserved for nursing facilities;
- Those with physical disabilities;
- The Pennsylvania resident must have a disability which results in a disability serious enough that it limits at least three functional abilities;
- The disability is expected to consider indefinitely; and
- The individual is not dependent on a ventilator or other mechanical supports.
Services that may be available to people receiving the Independence Waiver include:
- Daily Living Services;
- Environmental adaptions;
- Assistive technology/specialized medical equipment and supplies;
- Community integration services;
- Respite services; and
- Other waiver programs that are provided by the state of Pennsylvania but are not specifically designed for the aging community are:
- Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP);
- Adult Autism Waiver (AAW);
- COMMCARE Waiver – for those with a Traumatic Brain Injury who are 21 and over;
- Infants, Toddler, and Families Waiver – available for those between birth and the age of three;
- Person/Family Directed Support (P/FDS) Waiver – for those who are age three and older and require an ICF/MR level of care;
- Consolidated Waiver – for those who are age three and over and require and ICF/MR level of care; and
- OBRA Waiver – for those with developmental physical disabilities that result in at least three substantial functional limitations. The disability must manifest before the age of 22 and must be expected to continue indefinitely.
Helpful State Programs for Seniors & Senior Living in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has quite a few programs to help seniors, whether they are low-income or not. Many of these programs are coordinated by the Area Agency for Aging. The other number that senior citizens need to know is that of their local Ombudsman. The job of an Ombudsman is to protect the rights of Pennsylvania residents in long-term care facilities.
Pennsylvania also has the following services for elders:
- Community Dining – offered up to five days a week to Pennsylvanians over the age of 60 and their spouses. They are usually provided around noon and are available at Senior Community Centers around the state – almost 600 locations. Meals are free of charge but donations are accepted;
- Home-Delivered Meals – available to those who are eligible. The individual or a family member is interviewed to determine eligibility. In most states, to be eligible to receive meals, you must be unable to prepare meals by yourself;
- Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) – given to eligible Pennsylvania seniors over the age of 60. They receive four $5.00 checks one-time during the program year, although married couples can receive a total of $40.00. This allows senior to purchase fresh farm grown food in Pennsylvania. For more information contact your local AAA;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps, SNAP can be used to buy food at authorized stores in the state. Eligibility is determined based on income and numbers of eligible people in your household.
- Transportation Services – free for those who are 65 and older, seniors can ride free on local-fixed route services. The schedules and hours are available by contacting the local public transit agency, but must present a Commonwealth I.D. Card or a Medicare card.
- Caregiver Services – a program that gives Pennsylvania caregivers a temporary break from caregiving duties. Available to anyone who is a caregiver of an older person although costs vary.
Miscellaneous – other programs available to Pennsylvania State seniors:
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a state with an average cost of living, and although it is often thought of as a high tax rate, the state is also considered to be tax-friendly for retirees.
Here are some things to consider for seniors when choosing where to retire in Pennsylvania:
- Weather – a state where you get to truly experience all four seasons. From hot summers, to beautiful autumn leaves, seniors who retire in Pennsylvania will experience all four of the seasons and their unique beauty;
- Taxes and Cost of Living – Pennsylvania is tax-friendly for seniors and retirees. It is one of the only states where retirement income is exempt from income tax. Pensions, IRA distributions, and social security are not taxed. Furthermore, the cost of living in Pennsylvania is lower than the national average;
- History – if history is something that you are interested in, there are few states that can offer you so many historical sites. The state is home to Independence Hall, the Gettysburg Battlefield, and many other historical attractions;
- Natural beauty – Pennsylvania has mountains, fields, lakes, streams forests, and hills. It also has over 100 state parks with free admission for seniors and families;
- Golfing – if golfing is a sport that you enjoy, this state has numerous courses that are ranked highly. The Jack Frost National Golf Club is one of the most popular mountain golf courses and is in Pennsylvania; and
- Location – this state is close to other exciting states, such as New York City, Washington D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. Most of the destination are reachable by train.
Financial Information for Seniors
The states in the Northeast are typically not known for being “tax-friendly,” but Pennsylvania may be the exception to that rule, especially for senior citizens. The state imposes a flat state income tax of 3.07% on your taxable income and allows for no personal exemptions, yet those with lower incomes may qualify for the state’s tax forgiveness credit. There is a state sales tax of 6% with certain counties, Allegheny and Philadelphia, collecting more at 1% and 2% respectively. Retirees in Pennsylvania are exempt from paying sales tax on clothing, prescription medication, groceries, and residential fuels.
Property taxes are not collected by the state of Pennsylvania, which means that they vary throughout the state, averaging 1.47% which is the 13th highest in the country. There are programs for senior citizens to help offset the property tax rate. If you are over 65 years of age, or disabled, and own your home, you have a yearly income of less than $35,000 (renters have a $15,000 limit), Pennsylvania will give you a rebate that amounts to between $300 and $500. There is also a “state property tax reduction allocation” which reduces the taxable value of homesteads across the state.
Pennsylvania has an inheritance tax that can be up to 15% depending on the relationship between the deceased and the beneficiary. Certain farm land and agricultural property are exempt from this tax if the property is transferred to those who are eligible. Property that is owned jointly between spouses is exempt from the inheritance tax. These taxes are due upon death and are considered delinquent after nine months; however, if paid within three months there is a 5% discount.
Pennsylvania is also considered to be tax-friendly state for seniors, due to the following:
- Income from Social Security is not taxed;
- Withdrawals from retirement accounts are not taxed partially;
- Wages are taxed at normal rates, in Pennsylvania is 3.07%;
- Public pension income is not taxed; and
- Private pensions are not partially taxed.
The purchasing power in Pennsylvania is close to average for the nation. For example, what you could purchase for $100 in Pennsylvania is what you would expect to spend $101.83 on in another state. The cost of living is lower in Pennsylvania overall than it is in other states in every category with housing being the biggest difference. Pennsylvania rated higher in grocery, transportation, utilities, and miscellaneous; but lower in health, housing and overall.
Pennsylvania Medicaid eligibility is dependent upon your income, your resources, and other eligibility requirements. There are different categories, but when it comes to the elderly, Pennsylvania seniors are eligible when they are at least 65 years old, have blindness and disability. (this group is classified as related to SSI) or have Special Medical Assistance conditions. There are also specific income requires that seniors must meet to qualify.
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a state full of history for those who are interested and there are 121 state parks in the state with free admission. The Philadelphia Zoo was the first Zoo in America and there are other zoos throughout the state. There are also amusement parks located all over and Pennsylvania has the largest East Coast indoor water park, Splash Lagoon in Erie. The state is 19th in the nation when it comes to agriculture and 8th in Winemaking.
Pennsylvania is home to many professional sports teams - perfect for seniors who love sports, including: the Pittsburg Steelers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pittsburg Pirates, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburg Penguins, and the Philadelphia Union. Additionally, there are 29 state-funded universities and colleges such as: Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Pittsburg, to name a few.
There are many things that might be of interest for senior citizens in Pennsylvania State. Some of the more interesting things that seniors may enjoy in Pennsylvania include:
- Bushkill Falls – located in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. This is a nature area with eight waterfalls with hiking trails and bridges that can be found in the wooded part of the Poconos Mountains. It’s open throughout the year, except for in the winter. And, they have discounts for Senior Citizens and Group Discounts too;
- National Toy Train Museum – located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. This museum is dedicated to Toy Trains and has a collection from the 1800s to the present, containing five train layouts. The museum is open from 10-5 daily with special pricing for Senior Citizens and families;
- Gettysburg Foundation – located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There is a museum and visitor center on-site open daily from 9-5, the actual battlefield with guided tours, and lectures. There are discounts available for groups, Senior Citizens, Veterans, and AAA;
- Erie Lackawanna Dining Car – located in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Visitors can dine on this car as it travels through the Delaware Water Gap. Trains leave from the Dansbury Deport in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania at 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm;
- Hurry Hill Maple Farm Museum Association – located in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. Seniors can learn how pure maple sugar is made, as well as see sugaring antiques, natural history exhibits, and children activities. In the museum, elderly residents can also see the 1956 Newberry Medal that was given to Virginia Sorensen for her book “Miracles on Maple Hill.”
- The Amish Village in Lancaster County – located in Ronks, Pennsylvania (Lancaster and Strasburg County.) Seniors can pet farm animals, tour an authentic Amish property, a one-room schoolhouse, explore the Amish Village, and see present-day Amish;
- Bucks County Wine Tours – located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can take either a four-hour tour, a six-hour tour, or the Elite VIP tour. Add the optional gourmet picnic lunch and you have yourself a day spent in the beautiful countryside exploring some of the best wineries of Pennsylvania;
- Eastern State Penitentiary – located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, and held notorious criminals such as Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton. It is known for the architecture and being one of the first penitentiaries to make prisoners feel penitence for their crimes. It’s open every day between 10 am and 5 pm, although the last visitors are allowed at 4:00;
- Hershey, Pennsylvania – located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Known as the “sweetest place on Earth”. We have been told that this town smells of chocolate. There is an amusement park, hotels, spas, dining, and museums located in Hershey. It would be a great place to visit alone or to take grandchildren; and
- National Aviary – located in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This is a “bird zoo” with over 500 birds from 150 countries. There are shows available as well as a feeding opportunity. The National Aviary is open daily between 10 and 5 and they offer a Senior Citizen discount.
Some cities to consider for Pennsylvania Senior Living:
- Vernon Township, Pennsylvania – a township in Crawford, County, Pennsylvania in the northwest part of the state. It is often referred to as the “Golden Link” because it is situated between the county seat of Meadville and Conneaut Lake – the largest natural occurring lake in Pennsylvania. With a total area of 29.6 square miles and a population of less than 6,000, Vernon is a small town even though it is a suburb of Pennsylvania City. 18.1% of the population is 65 or older and 12.3% of the population were headed by households of people who were over the age of 65. The population density is a relatively low at 190 people per square mile;
- Chambersburg, Pennsylvania – located in the South Central region of Pennsylvania. The town is known for its outdoorsy activities and the Capitol Theatre. It is known historically as being a stop on the underground railroad and the place where John Brown stayed at Mary Ritner’s boarding house while preparing for the raid on Harpers Ferry. It was also burned down during the Civil War for failing to provide to a ransom to Confederate features. There are a number of places here for seniors to see that on the National Register of Historic Places in Chambersburg, such as: Brotherton Far, John Brown House, Coldbrook Farm, Chambersburg Historic Distric, and James Finley House. Almost 17% of households had someone living with them aged 65 and older; however, in the larger borough those who were over the age of 65 comprised 22.7% of the population;
- Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania – approximately an hour and half from both Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The cost of living in Mount Carmel is low, as is the crime rate. 24.7% of households had someone over the age of 65 living with them. In the borough, the median age is 45 years with almost 26% of residents being 65 or older;
- Tyrone, Pennsylvania – located approximately fifteen miles from Altoona, Pennsylvania. Quite a few notable businesses make their home in Tyrone – Gardner’s Candles, W.F. Hiller Agency, and the Levine Family Shoe Store. 14.8% of households had someone living with them who was over the age of 65+ and 18.3% of the population was over 65; and
- Kennett Township, Pennsylvania – this township is home to a growing Mexican-American community. The median age is 41 years old and 17.5% of the population is 65 or older.