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Officials urge seniors in Pinellas, Pasco to claim remaining funds for home safety upgrades

 Anna Sanders, 60, leans on her walker near the front door of her home in San Antonio, Florida.
Gabriella Paul
Anna Sanders, 60, leans on her walker near the front door of her home in San Antonio.

Nearly $3 million in home modification funds remain for county residents until Dec. 31.

Seniors in Pasco and Pinellas counties who need modifications to stay in their homes are eligible for free equipment and installation — if they apply before time runs out.

The Pasco-Pinellas Area Agency on Aging is one of the 11 elder affairs offices across the state participating in this temporary program.

While there's nearly $3 million in remaining funds for Pasco and Pinellas residents — nearly 80% of the total program allocation — there's not much time left, according to the director of program accountability Christine Didion.

Money for home modifications, like installing bedrails or a lift chair, must be claimed by Dec. 31, she said.

"For many of us, we think of the services or supports we might need to stay in our homes ... but something that doesn't come to our mind is home improvements ... to make them more functional, safer and more accessible as you age and experience changes in your health," she said.

She urged Pinellas and Pasco residents to take advantage of this existing program while it's available.

Didion said there is the possibility of a permanent home modification program next year, if it's green-lighted by Florida lawmakers. On Thursday, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs pitched a $10 million program to improve the housing conditions of seniors in the state, according to a Florida Phoenix report.

In these counties, between January and October, 287 residents received free home improvements, medical equipment and services.

Among them was Anna Sanders, 60, who uses a walker.

In November, her bathtub was converted to a walk-in shower in her home in San Antonio.

"This has been a lifesaver. I mean, it really helps our budget. It helps my peace of mind and my family's peace of mind since I'm here alone," she said.

Sanders suffers from chronic back pain, and after a surgery this year, Sanders said stepping over the tub became too difficult.

With the modification, she said she's regained a sense of independence — and she's saved about $9,000, the average cost of a tub-to-shower conversion.

With those savings, Sanders said she can invest in modifying other parts of her home to support her through retirement.

Pasco and Pinellas residents who apply to the program are eligible for home safety improvements and services, including:

  • Tub-to-shower conversion
  • Bedrails, handrails
  • Electric lifts
  • Enhanced chore
  • Grab bars
  • High-seated toilet
  • Hospital bed
  • Hurricane preparedness
  • Lift chair
  • Non-slip flooring
  • Ring camera/video doorbell
  • Smart appliances
  • Smart pill dispenser

To reach the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas, email or call (727) 570-9696, extension163.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a  Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

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Gabriella Paul