Doin’ Dunmore: Gary Duncan Named PA Council on Aging Chairman

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.” 

Dunmorean of the Month: Gary Duncan

Dunmorean of month

Gary Duncan, left, is shown with Magistrate Paul Ware, who administered his oath of office and appointment by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Assembly to the Pennsylvania Council on Aging.

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore’s Gary Duncan has done a lot of good things in his life, but he is most proud of his most recent accomplishment as Vice-Chair for the Pennsylvania Council on Aging.

Duncan, 66, was administered the oath of office by local Magistrate Paul Ware and appointment by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Assembly.

The Pennsylvania Council on Aging serves as an advocate for older individuals and advises the governor’s department on planning, coordination and delivery of services for older individuals in the commonwealth. 

Duncan and his wife Lynne, a speech pathologist at Allied Services, are proud parents of two daughters, Annie, a graduate student at Marywood University studying for an M.B.A., and Claire, a senior at Immaculata University with a dual major in English and Communications and minor in public relations. 

Duncan has been head of the Dunmore Neighborhood Crime Watch for the past six years. It is a position he takes very seriously. 

He is a member of the Dunmore Planning Commission. 

Articulate and well spoken, Duncan has a B.S. degree in both nursing and occupational therapy from two different universities. He is a former cross country runner at Pennsylvania State University. 

A registered and certified occupational therapist, he worked in rehab for 42 years. He has taught geriatric rehab in the Marywood University continuing education department for the past 19 years.

“This is a great honor for me,” said Duncan. “It was not expected. It was a big shock. Senator John Blake nominated me for the Pennsylvania Council on Aging. The process took a year.

“It was a rigorous process after I was nominated. It took a whole year. I had to provide a resume and they did a background check. It went through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate. You have to be approved unanimously by the Pennsylvania Congress.”

Duncan, who is now in his second term with the Pennsylvania Council on Aging, said he will now go to meetings every two months in Harrisburg. Senator Torres, the secretary for the Pennsylvania Department on Aging, regularly attends the meetings. 

“I am going to be meeting with various medical bodies from across the commonwealth,” he said. “One of the goals is to introduce tele-medicine to senior citizens across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Well versed in many areas, Duncan did a radio talk show recently for Twigs cafe radio in Tunkhannock. 

Duncan coached baseball in the Green Ridge Little League for several years. He used to love playing pickup basketball in his younger days. He was always an avid runner. 

Duncan takes on his role as a family man even more seriously. He gleams when he speaks of his daughters. “We are very proud of them. We did good.” 

Always driven and highly intelligent, Duncan worked for most of the past decade as a home health occupational therapist for Traditional Home Health, Dunmore. The Dunmore resident previously worked as a rehab director for several agencies.

“I am so proud and honored by this appointment,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting and I will take it very seriously. The appointment is to be taken seriously in serving the elderly population throughout the commonwealth.

Dunmore Couple Volunteers for Autism

duncansBy Steve Svetovich

The 13th annual Autism Awareness a Night was held this past April 28 at the 20th Ward Banquet Hall, Scranton, And once again Dunmore’s Gary and Lynne Duncan were there to volunteer their time.

Gary Duncan is head of Dunmore’s Neighborhood Crime Watch program and is an occupational therapist for Traditional Home Health, Dunmore. His wife Lynne is a speech therapist for Allied Services, Scranton, and has years of experience working with the autistic population and special needs children.

“This event is always for a good cause,” she said. “We are very happy to be here.”

Gary’s involvement was quite evident as he took the time to walk around, shake hands and talk to those attending the yearly event.

The Dunmore couple volunteer yearly at the event and cherish their time there.

The Duncan couple’s high regard for the Autism Awareness Night is evident in their demeanor while greeting those in attendance.

“I don’t even have to think twice about coming here,” Gary Duncan said. “It’s a no brainer.”

The annual event is sponsored by the Minooka Lions Club. Several hundred attended.

A variety of delicious hot food, water, soda, coffee, pastries and deserts all buffet style were served to those who attended.

Al Dorunda, Jr., is chairman of the Board of Directors for the Minooka Lions Autism Awareness Foundation. Joe Castaldi is treasurer. Rita Castaldi is vice chairman.

Autism and autism spectrum disorder are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.

These disorders are characterized in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome.

Asperger syndrome can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with Aspergers excel in visual skills, music, math and art. Some are at a genius level in these areas.

Autism has its roots in early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms tend to emerge between 12 and 18 months of age.

Some infants and toddlers begin to develop normally until the second year of life, when they lose skills and develop or are diagnosed with autism. It is a pattern called regression.

Autism Speaks funds research on effective methods for earlier diagnosis, as early intervention with proven behavioral therapies can improve outcomes.

Increasing autism awareness is a key aspect of this work and one in which families and volunteers play a valuable role.

Autism now affects one in 68 children and one in 42 boys.

Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the country.

There is no medical detection or cure for autism.

Parents Loving Children Through Autism Foundation is located at 1243 Wyoming Ave., third floor, Scranton. The contact number is 570-341-3388.

Autism costs a family an average of $60,000 per year and receives less than five percent of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases.

There needs to be more people like Dunmore’s Gary and Lynne Duncan to help.

Autism prevalence figures continue to grow.

And the children diagnosed with autism later become adults with autism. The adults need advocates too.

Funding is just one of the many concerns.

There needs to be more help.

That’s a no brainer.