Active Aging with Vision Loss

By:  Shari Roeseler

Executive Director, Society for the Blind

Vision loss happens to families, not just individuals. If you have a parent, spouse, other family member, or friend who is experiencing vision loss, your first inclination is likely to want to comfort and support them. Most of us want our loved one to be able to remain independent, capable, and full of life.

Vision loss is a serious public health concern. Today it is estimated that 7 million Americans over age 65 have severe vision loss, and that number is expected to double by 2030.  Our growing senior population wants to stay active and independent. They want to remain in their own homes. Active aging is their goal and vision loss does not have to be a barrier.

Article photo of SIP student shopping for nail polish at a local store.

Senior IMPACT Program retreat student, Denise Duncan.

At Society for the Blind, we offer a program tailored just for older adults who want to learn to stay active despite vision loss. Each month our Senior IMPACT Program offers an 8-day immersion retreat where older adults learn how to navigate with a long white cane, and engage in cooking and other activities of daily living by utilizing adaptive tools and non-visual techniques. They receive training on how to use accessible features of their smart phones and tablets so they can stay in touch with family and friend, and they learn basic Braille so they can label medications, clothes and other key items in their homes. For those who live farther away or who have mobility issues, we bring the training to their home.

Society also provides Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) at our Low Vision Clinic. Working with our VRT specialist the patient learns how to use his or her remaining vision so he or she can once again engage in activities like reading, cooking, playing cards and going for walks. Our Vision Rehabilitation Therapist is able to see patients in our clinic as well as in the patient’s home.

Ongoing support groups at Society offer older adults and their families and caregivers the opportunity to share their experiences, discuss challenges and identify ways to support active aging with vision loss.  Support groups are offered monthly in English and Spanish.

Article photo of SIP student receiving O&M instructions from her SIP instructor.

Senior IMPACT Program retreat student, Yolanda Jones, practices her Orientation & Mobility skills with instructor, Kevin McGrath.

Active Aging for someone with vision loss is possible and Society for the Blind is here to make sure older adults in the Sacramento region can stay active and independent. For more information about Society’s Senior IMPACT Program, please contact us at 916-452-8271.

This article was featured in the Summer 2017 issue of UC Davis Eye Center’s enVision Magazine. Read the full publication here.