What Does Independence Really Mean to Older Persons Experiencing Vision Loss?

We are celebrating our independence as a nation this week. We indeed have much to celebrate as we our flag flows proud and free, and we sing our nation’s anthem (in my case slightly off key)!

the American flag

Taking this to a personal level, the VisionAware peer advisors have addressed this theme in a series on independence.

"How Independent Do You Want to Be?" Peer Advisor DeAnna Noriega raised this question saying, "the training, tools, and techniques to accomplish an independent lifestyle are all available and possible. However, the choices of what you wish to learn and what you want to do are up to you. Some of these things will depend on what you enjoy doing, what your circumstances are, and whether you wish to take back control of your life….. The degree to which you want to take control of your life is a personal decision, and there isn’t a right way to live as a visually impaired person. There is a full range of options to tailor your lifestyle to meet your needs and be as independent as you choose to be."

Peer Advisor Audrey Demmitt, R.N., took another tack in her post, "Independence Versus Interdependence." She talks about the "economy of mutual benefit," saying "independence is nice, but it can be lonely and burdensome. Interdependence defines our place in the world and gives us purpose and meaning. It anchors us and connects us to others. None of us are completely independent; while learning to maintain a level of independence once again, I also learned how to ask for help and find ways to offer help to others in this dance we call life. This economy of ‘mutual benefit’ has been a wonderful experience. So often I find that people really want to assist me, and there is a blessing in it for them. And just as often, it is a blessing to me to find a way to reciprocate. Asking for help can be difficult and humbling, but it connects you to others in unique ways which can enrich your life. Even sighted people need a helping hand once in a while."

Audrey and husband at Ft. Funston Beach

Roadmap to Living with Vision Loss

It’s all about choice and options. Maureen Duffy, VisionAware editor, put together a roadmap to living with vision loss, excerpted from Making Life More Livable: Simple Adaptations for Living at Home After Vision Loss, the informative book she wrote and edited to help people in dealing with vision loss.

The article lays out steps to take if you lose vision from getting a thorough eye exam to having a low vision exam, if appropriate, to finding out about vision rehabilitation services and checking out benefits. The article ends with, "although a change in vision can involve difficult emotional reactions and adjustments, people who have experienced a loss of vision can continue to go about their lives and activities and remain independent in their own homes."

What Does Independence Day Really Mean in This Country for Older Persons with Vision Loss?

As you celebrate this 4th of July, think about what is important to you personally. But also think about the options you want others to have.

According to the National Health Interview Survey (2014), of all the civilian, non-institutionalized adults ages 65 and up in the U.S, 6.1 million (or 13.5 percent) experienced vision loss and 350,000 (or 0.8 percent) were blind. For the population ages 85 and up, 22.3 percent had vision loss, and 2.3 percent were blind. Although we need better data, we know from personal stories and experiences that older adults with vision loss are frequently overlooked and underserved. For example, the third step in the "Roadmap" previously referenced involves finding out about vision rehabilitation services. These are provided through state and private agencies throughout the country and are underwritten, in part by a federal program called the "Title VII, Chapter 2." Advocates working through the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss have developed four goals, the first of which is to increase the funding for this critical but vastly underfunded program. As indicated in the goal’s fact sheet, only 2 percent of older individuals who are eligible for this program are currently receiving services.

Think about what July 4 means to us as a nation. As the Declaration of Independence boldly states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Use these Rights. Speak out!

Related 21st Century Agenda Articles

Taking It to the Streets

Medicare Demonstration Coverage of Low Vision Act of 2017

Critical Issues for Older Persons with Vision Loss