When Rodney D. Williams came to Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) 39 years ago, the concept of services for senior citizens was in its infancy. The Second White House Conference on Aging, held in 1972, had prompted creation of a nationwide network Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) the following year. The following year, PCA was founded, with Williams as its first director. Through his leadership, PCA has become a nationally recognized organization that has consistently been at the forefront of innovations designed to improve the lives of senior citizens. Last month, Williams announced his retirement as the organization’s longtime leader.
“In 1973, I was appointed the first executive director of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) — one of a network of newly-created Area Agencies on Aging all across the country,” said Williams. “. I could not have envisioned, then, either the scope of services for seniors we are now administering; or that I would still be at the agency’s helm almost 40 years later. This December, I will retire from PCA, confident in the knowledge that the agency will continue to fulfill our vital mission, of improving the lives of older Philadelphians.”
Both the field of aging and the older population have grown over these four decades. When PCA was created, there were 20 million older Americans, age 65-plus. Today, there are more than 40 million, and they have grown from 10 percent to 13 percent of the nation’s population. Philadelphia has the highest proportion of senior citizens among the nation’s 10 largest cities, with 12 percent of the city’s population age 65-plus.
Over the years, Congress has steadily expanded the Older Americans Act, making possible a provision of a wide array of services. These now include information and referral, in-home care, home-delivered meals, senior community centers, employment programs, transportation, adult day care, home repairs, legal assistance and protective services. Revenue from the Pennsylvania Lottery, created in 1971, has further contributed to PCA’s ability to care for older Philadelphians.
“Over the past 39 years, Williams has established within the agency a culture of compassion and dedication to excellence in serving senior citizens” said PCA Board Chairman Mike Blum. “He has established a strong foundation for his successor.”
Today, with close to 650 employees, the agency is one of the region’s largest nonprofits. Holly Lange has been named the next president and chief executive officer of PCA, and will succeed Williams, upon his retirement on Dec. 31.
“When I came to PCA there were 200 employees,” recalled Lange. She said much of the growth can be attributed to PCA’s participation in the Aging Waiver Program, which enables low-income seniors who qualify for nursing home care to opt for services provided in the home. “Currently, we are providing in-home care through various programs for more than 15,000 senior citizens,” Lange said. She added that in 1997, the agency opened its own Meal Distribution Center, through which more than 4,000 meals a day are delivered to eligible seniors.
PCA contracts with more than 175 community organizations and providers to deliver services to more than 100,000 individuals each year. Founded on the principle that older persons have the right to plan and manage their own lives, PCA seeks ongoing input from consumers.
The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging is located 642 N. Broad St. For more information, call their helpline at (215) 765-9040 or visit www.pcacares.org.