By Steve Svetovich
Gary Duncan, 68, is not afraid of challenges.
Last month the Dunmore resident took on one of his biggest challenges as he was made the new Chairman of the Pennsylvania Council on Aging.
During a recent symposium, he followed Governor Thomas Wolf and Secretary of Aging Robert Torres in opening remarks.
Not too shabby.
“I was appreciative of the nomination,” Duncan said. “Like all things,” he said, “when serving as the chair of a group you are simultaneously excited for the challenges leadership presents as well as for the opportunity to be part of a team that can increase services to the citizens of our great Commonwealth.
“In the midst of a pandemic, we had to develop new strategies and platforms for service delivery. I am very pleased to now chair the group and deliver our message across the commonwealth.”
Duncan is a semi retired educator, nurse and occupational therapist. He still teaches in the continuing education department at Marywood University. He teaches the rehabilitation component of the nursing home administration course.
Duncan has been a member of the Dunmore Planning Commission since 2018. He has been head of the Dunmore Neighborhood Crime Watch since 2013. He is a member of the Lackawanna County Suicide Prevention Alliance. He is a member of the Lackawanna County Elder Technology Committee. He is on the advisory board of the Pennsylvania Council on Aging. As a nurse and occupational therapist, he has 44 years of experience in health care.
His wife Lynne is a speech pathologist at Allied Services, Scranton. The couple has two daughters. Annie, 27, has an M.B.A. from Marywood University. Claire, 23, is a graduate student at West Chester University where she studies English and Digital Communications. She received her B.S. In both English and Digital Communications from Immaculata University.
As chairman of the PA Council on Aging, Duncan cannot attend meetings at the Capitol as previous chairmans did. “This is due to the current pandemic world we live in now,” said Duncan. “The guidelines tell us we cannot meet at the Capitol, so we must explore a new platform.”
As the new chairman, Duncan wants to set goals regarding dementia, elder abuse/neglect and social isolation. “These are three areas we want to address in the pandemic world,” he said. “We have not seen a pandemic this wide spread in 100 years. And it is effecting the elderly in many ways.
“I am proud of this group. It is an honor and I am so excited to do this. It is a chance to serve as an advocate for elder individuals.
“Last year we started a state-wide survey for older adults in response to the state wide pandemic. The survey was available in English and Spanish. This was put out in 67 counties. We got 3,700 responses in the course of one week. It was a great snapshot of the needs of the state.
“We saw in these surveys the loneliness and isolation the elderly face. Social isolation can even result in abuse.
“We put together a social isolation task force that led us to our second goal. We then released an interactive guide, information and resources to help elderly adults create a healthy mind, body and spirit.
“Now the whole purpose is to mitigate social isolation among our seniors.
“We have now produced informative videos that seniors can access on line.”
Duncan said his number one role is to advise the Governor and the Department on Aging on the planning and coordination of services for older individuals and advocating for older individuals.
“What we do has implications to older residents of 67 counties,” he said.
Duncan said the 67 counties represent 17 in Northeast PA, 13 in Northwest PA, eight in Southeast PA, 13 in Southwest PA and 16 in Central PA.
Duncan said his appointment came as a nomination to the Governor from 16 members of Council and was subject to Senate confirmation.
“We are living in a pandemic world and we must address and are addressing issues seniors face which are primarily dementia, elder abuse and neglect and social isolation. My goal is to plan and coordinate these programs, advise the Governor and the PA Council on Aging regarding the programs and serve as an advocate for the elderly.
“I am very much looking forward to the work ahead.”