Doing business in Northeast Pennsylvania means keeping up with retirement-age customers, because there are a lot.
The region’s 65-plus population is a bit higher, as a percentage, than the rest of the state. And Pennsylvania is one of the grayer states.
Seniors are 16.8 percent of all Americans, but 19 percent of Pennsylvannians, according to the US Census Bureau. Regionally: Luzerne County, 19.9 percent; Lackawanna County, 20.3 percent; and 22.4 percent in Wyoming County. It’s about the same in surrounding counties.
Nationally, Pennsylvania ranks ninth by percentage of that age group, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
“As we age, our needs become more complex,” said Stephanie Pacovsky, operations director for Geisinger 65 Forward, a group of senior-specific clinics. It launched in Kingston and Scranton in 2019. A tenth 65 Forward Center will open in Pottsville in May, staffed by Dr. Ricky Heath.
There is a demand for centers that offer wellness classes, exercise equipment and social spaces alongside medical care, Pacovsky said.
On South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, that means coffee in front of an electric fireplace, a meeting room for group events and staff in a gym. Patients often come in to just hang out, Pacovsky said.
But the main point is access. Labs and imaging are on-site. Geisinger advertises same day appointments and doctor’s visits that last up to an hour.
“I think it became popular because it is what they have always wanted, or remember having,” Pacovsky said.
Also on South Main Street: an office for Geisinger’s health insurance program. Geisinger insurance, or certain military coverage, is required.
Enrollment in the fourth quarter of 2022 grew 66 percent over the same time the previous year. There are currently a little over 3,000 Northeastern Pennsylvania patients in 65 Forward.
Commonwealth Health, another major regional health care network, operates Regional Hospital of Scranton, Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
“Our area is aging faster than the state and national average making chronic disease prevention and management a top priority. Commonwealth Health Physician Network, our employed physician group, is addressing chronic conditions through a strong network of primary care physicians who have the time to work one-on-one with patients. Whether it’s a common disease such as hypertension, COPD, arthritis or diabetes, or something less common, our primary care team can customize treatment, adjust medications and discuss alternative therapies or lifestyle changes,” said Dr. Patrick D. Conaboy, in a written statement. He is chief medical officer of Regional Hospital and Moses Taylor Hospital.
Conaboy highlighted several developments of interest to an older population, although not limited to them. That includes Care Management at Home,“a new remote monitoring and virtual care support program” for some chronic conditions. “Our Care Management at Home program currently serves patients managing hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with the goals of helping patients stay well between physician visits and reducing avoidable hospitalizations” Conaboy said.
Also, Regional Hospital has performed over 600 TAVR surgeries: a minimally invasive valve replacement suited for frail and elderly patients. (Geisinger also does TAVR in various locations.)
Commonwealth Health’s Scranton hospitals are within a block of each other and are in the process of coordinating services. Moses Taylor is the home of senior mental health services. Coming soon: an outpatient surgery “center of excellence” at Moses Taylor. “This will be a new convenient location for seniors needing minimally invasive same-day procedures like hip or knee surgery,” Conaboy wrote.
Over in the financial services sector, retirees are often looking for safer bets.
The recent inflation and market volatility were “very jarring” for retired and nearly retired clients, said Brian Goldsack, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Dunmore. “Just the general take on it is ‘Am I going to be OK?’ ”
He advises clients to stick to their long term strategy. “It’s a question of risk reduction and there are various ways to reduce risk,” Goldsack said. People are looking for fixed income products, such as CDs and municipal bonds.
Well over half of Goldsacks’s clients are approaching or above Social Security eligibility.
Adam Ruderman, personal financial representative with Allstate financial services in Pittston, expects continued demand for “annuities with income riders that provide guaranteed lifetime income regardless of market performance.”
Another typical retirement strategy, moving to a smaller home, can be a challenge, said Ruderman, who also owns residential real estate in the Wyoming Valley. “There is limited inventory,” of smaller homes that appeal to retirees, Ruderman said.
Danielle Angeloni, associate broker in the Peckville office of ERA One Source Realty, wishes there were more townhomes and small ranch houses. “There are sellers who are frustrated,” when they become buyers, she said.
Her clients are mainly in Lackawanna County, with some in Susquehanna and Wayne counties.
Townhouses entered the local market in significant numbers about 20 years ago, a welcome development, Angeloni said. “They can’t put them up fast enough,” she said. She lives in a townhouse in Archbald.
There will continue to be more demand than supply for smaller homes, in part because larger properties can be more profitable for builders, she said.
As the baby boom generation ages, seniors will continue to make up a big slice of the real estate market, Angeloni said. Among her retirement age clients, about half want to downsize locally. The other half leave in search of sun or to live near to their children. She doesn’t expect that breakdown to change.
Goldsack hasn’t noticed any change in retirement timing. But Ruderman said early retirement is increasingly appealing for clients who can swing it financially. “There is more stress, that is what they are telling me,” in the workplace, Ruderman said.