Statement Of William Johnston-Walsh
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
Deputy Secretary of Aging
Pennsylvania Department of Aging
I would like to thank the EPA for asking me to briefly address this session on behalf of Governor Rendell and Secretary Nora Dowd of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. We support EPA's initiative on the environment and the aging.
As has been said before, Pennsylvania has an aging population. We rank third in the country in overall aging population. By 2030, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. In the Commonwealth now, one in every five Pennsylvanians is over the age of 60. We believe that with such a large senior population, Pennsylvania should be at the forefront of any national initiative that involves aging. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is responsible for enhancing Pennsylvania's older population and the agency coordinates policy that affects older Pennsylvanians.
I would like to touch on three points. First, we applaud the efforts of the EPA to prioritize and study environmental hazards that impact the health of our older population. Through the awareness of hazards such as temperature extremes, pesticides and air and water contaminants, we can better educate our seniors. For example, every year, we at the Department work through our area agencies on aging to make sure that older Pennsylvanians are aware of temperature extremes during the summer months. We know that prolonged exposure to environmental hazards can be detrimental to the health of seniors such as mines and factories, and exposure to pesticides.
As the EPA indicates, the baby boomers are beginning to retire after a lifetime of exposure to environmental hazards. Some of these new seniors will have medical issues as a result of these hazards. However, in increasing numbers, we believe these seniors are contributing more to our society than ever before. While the environment has had a negative impact on the health of a number of seniors, seniors are energetic and experienced, and are reversing trends and making positive impacts on the environment.
Third, we applaud EPA's efforts to encourage volunteerism. It is a priority that the Pennsylvania Department of Aging shares with the EPA. Presently, the Department of Aging supports voluntary efforts through a variety of programs and one in particular is the Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps. The Corps has harnessed the volunteer efforts of seniors to monitor waterways, collect and prepare technically accurate water quality data, provide environmental education expertise and spur citizens to be involved in local decision making. As of this past year, there were 700 senior volunteers who were involved on a daily basis, well over 1200 on a semiannual basis, and close to 2000 annually works on stream clean ups and Earth Day activities. In closing, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging thanks the EPA for creating this Initiative, and especially thanks them for their efforts to encourage volunteerism.