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Program helps 91-year-old Sharpsburg woman remain independent

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Peg Panza makes gift baskets for the Sharpsburg Fire Department Auxiliary in her apartment at Sharpsburg Towers.
Jan Pakler | Trib Total Media
Peg Panza makes gift baskets for the Sharpsburg Fire Department Auxiliary in her apartment at Sharpsburg Towers.

After 30 years in the same sixth-floor apartment of the Sharpsburg Towers, the colorful door placard that reads “Mayor” seems befitting of resident Peg Panza.

A short visit to the 91-year-old yields little one-on-one time with her, between pop-ins from neighbors and phone calls from members of her ladies auxiliary seeking help for its upcoming luncheon.

“I used to be bashful,” said Panza, an Ohio native who married and raised a family in Sharpsburg. “But that doesn't get you anywhere.”

Panza credits a UPMC St. Margaret service, Living at Home, for supporting her independence.

“I have a girl come in and clean every two weeks,” she said. “I don't really need that because I like to clean, but I had my hip replaced four times, and they tell me I can't run the sweeper anymore.”

Panza also gets help filling her pill boxes and checking her blood pressure.

The Living at Home program is aimed at providing help for the area's aging population, said UPMC spokeswoman Carly Manino. Care for senior citizens was identified as a priority during a 2013 hospital assessment of local health needs, Manino said. Conducted by medical specialists and community leaders, it revealed preventative health and wellness, screenings and home health care as topics for continued focus, Manino said.

Senior citizens throughout the Lower Valley can receive in-home care, meal delivery, grocery shopping, housekeeping and help with yardwork.

“It is designed to help more seniors live independently for as long as possible,” Manino said.

The Living at Home initiative is one of several that the hospital uses to address the needs of under-served senior citizens. There are free community education programs, a shuttle service to provide access along the Freeport Road corridor, lectures, diabetes screenings and support groups.

Panza, who fell during a storm last year and broke an elbow, also has some eyesight issues. None of the ailments appear to slow her down, but, she said, she appreciates the help.

“My eyesight isn't so good, so they fill my pills every three weeks for me,” she said. “Isn't that nice?

“I have a girl named Karen that comes and cleans my bathroom and kitchen. Really, I just like to have her come and talk.”

Panza still holds her position as president of the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary after 40 years. She is working now to coordinate the Chinese auction for the group's upcoming bingo and lunch on Aug. 23. Her bedroom is filled with more than a dozen laundry baskets and boxes that contain snacks, body lotions and other auction prizes.

“Somebody's got to do it,” she said. “My daughters call me a stubborn old woman. I call it independence.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, or at

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