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Grants would help seniors with vision loss remain at home

By Sue Hegarty
Kate Grathwol, president/CEO of Vision Loss Resources, and Allen Hyatt, a retired assistant Minneapolis city attorney, testify for a bill to establish an in-home and community service grant program for older adults with vision loss. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Advances in medical technology have enabled people to live longer, but with older age often comes increased vision loss, according to Kate Grathwol, president/CEO of Vision Loss Resources.

Rep. Nels Pierson (R-Rochester) sponsors HF1739 that would provide grants to companies that give vision loss education and training to help people stay in their homes as their vision degenerates.

The House Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee approved the bill Wednesday and referred it to the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

Of the estimated 81,000 people with blindness or vision impairments in Minnesota, 66 percent are over age 65, Pierson said. His bill would provide $350,000 in Fiscal Year 2016 and another $450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 for grants to be administered by the Department of Human Services.

Grant recipients could use the funds to perform in-home assessments regarding a person’s ability to remain in their home and one-to-one training in adaptive life skills for independent living.

The funds would be targeted specifically to senior citizens in order to provide early intervention training and support, services that generally are not covered through insurance. 

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