Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert A. Pascal announced details yesterday of a plan for a department of aging that would include a cabinet-level department head.

"Under the current system our seniors get caught up in a maze and often don't know exactly where to go with their problems," Pascal said. "We need to change that and this is a way to do it."

Pascal unveiled his program twice, in Montgomery County and in Baltimore, hoping to get television coverage in both the Washington and Baltimore media markets. One TV crew showed up in each location.

As he has done at his press conferences, Pascal came equipped with a chart, this one purporting to show the "jumbled" system of aid to the aging run by his Democratic opponent, Gov. Harry Hughes.

As at previous press conferences, Pascal was vague when asked to cite specific problems. "We need to streamline the system to keep these people from getting banged around," Pascal said. When asked how people were getting "banged around," Pascal did not have an answer.

Pascal said Hughes' budget for the elderly (about $6.2 million) is not large enough, but the GOP nominee would not say how much he would increase it. He said it would cost about $500,000 to start a department of aging but did not say where the money would come from. Nine states have such departments now.

The head of Hughes' office on aging sits in on cabinet meetings, "but that's not the same as having the powers of a cabinet-level officer and he (Hughes) knows it," Pascal said.

Lou Panos, Hughes' spokesman, responded that "this proposal is a cosmetic appeal for votes from the elderly who are one of the governor's primary concerns. That is evidenced by the expensive legislative program he has introduced."

Panos said that while the elderly once had to deal with a "maze" to get aid from the state, that is no longer true. "The Gateway-1 program at the entry level which the governor introduced has helped eliminate that problem," Panos said. "The Republican candidate would probably know that if he was not busy campaigning around the state on spurious issues like this one."