MURRYSVILLE – During a House Republican Policy Committee hearing co-hosted by Rep. Jill Cooper (R-Westmoreland) and Committee Chairman Joshua D. Kail (R-Beaver/Washington), testimony was received from local officials on the topics of guardianship, safety, and policies that can improve a senior’s well-being and dignity.
“When folks retire and move on to the next phase of their lives, it should be a time of enjoyment and celebration. Unfortunately, there are long-term considerations and a list of fraudulent scams that are constant threats,” said Cooper. “These folks were part of our workforce, and they are the grandparents of Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren. We need to take a hard look at our current policies and consider what Harrisburg can do to make their lives easier. Thank you to Chairman Kail for partnering with me to make sure these concerns are taken seriously.”
Judge Harry F. Smail discussed the state's Elder Law Task Force, which was established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2013 to address needs specific to seniors. The task force created a Guardianship Tracking System, a tool intended to facilitate greater control over the management of guardianship cases for incapacitated persons. It is intended to automate certain functions, such as reporting deadlines for guardians and flags for potential loss or neglect.
“There is a procedure in place when someone is in a diminished capacity, which is a major concern when there are nefarious people who want to take advantage of them,” Smail said. “We are obligated to find a familial source to be the guardian, if possible.”
To highlight the seriousness of seniors being targeted by criminals, Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli shared a story with legislators about a local woman who received a message on her Apple device to call Apple support. She was told that her funds were compromised and that she needed to send money to rectify the problem. Between gift cards, crypto currency and wire transfers, the woman was scammed out of $150,000 in personal savings.
“We often see these offenders target a population that is trusting, generous and easy to exploit for financial gain,” said Ziccarelli. “Today, criminal activity targeting our senior population is ever-changing in creativity and technology resulting in difficulty to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable."
The committee also heard from John R. Dickson, president and CEO of Redstone Highlands Communities and Dr. Pamela Toto, professor and director of the Doctor of Clinical Science in Occupational Therapy Program at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Our seniors are influential members of our lives, and it is important we do everything we can to ensure their golden years are the best they can be,” said Kail. “Pennsylvania has one of the largest senior citizen populations in the United States. That is why we must continue to protect our older adults and pass policy that improves their lives. Thank you to Rep. Cooper and the testifiers for putting this all together. We look forward to taking these suggestions to Harrisburg and encourage innovative policy solutions we can all be proud of.”
Video of the hearing and copies of testimony will be available at PAGOPPolicy.com
Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jordan Frei