National Senior Independence Month Part 2

Additional Suggestions for Negotiating Aging with Vision Loss

In Part 1 of this post, we discussed four suggestions to help you negotiate aging with vision loss. Here are the rest for you to consider:

young boy reading a print/braille book as a volunteer looks on

Consider Who You Want to Be Now that You Have Retired

  1. Redefine and reinvent yourself in retirement. It is a challenge to maintain your self-identity as you age with vision loss. When our career ends and family roles change, we may ask ourselves, “Who am I now?” “Am I useful to my family and community?” You can find fulfillment and satisfaction in this stage of life by exploring new ways to “contribute” within the family and society, using your wisdom, experience and skills. There are many opportunities for seniors to volunteer in hospitals, schools, and retirement centers.

    Check out Senior Corps which helps connect seniors to programs and people who need them as volunteers, mentors and companions. ReServe is an innovative program that matches professionals aged 55+ with nonprofits that need them, for pay. AARP Foundation Experience Corps is looking for seniors interested in tutoring K-3 students who are struggling to read. Serving your community is a proven way to stay healthy, active and restore a sense of meaning and purpose.

  2. Recognize depression and get treatment. Research shows that seniors who have vision loss are 90% more likely to experience depression symptoms than those without vision problems. And about one third of seniors with age-related macular degeneration will also have significant depression. The level of depression seems linked to the person’s reduced ability to perform activities of daily living and not on the amount of vision loss. Vision rehabilitation can help a person return to independence. But if depression is present, it may be difficult to seek out services and participate fully in this training. Living with vision impairment can bring on depression and depression increases the level of disability which further compounds the depression.

    So, it is important to discuss depression with your healthcare provider if you have been feeling sad and hopeless for more than two weeks duration. Read “Depression During the Holidays and Beyond” to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of depression. Consider individual therapy with a counselor to help you adjust to vision loss and cope in healthy ways. Support groups for the visually impaired can also be helpful during the adjustment process. They can provide empathy, encouragement, and education which alleviates the fear and discouragement of vision loss. Remember, depression is treatable.

  3. Activate the power of positivity. How do you feel about aging and retirement? What do you believe about getting older? Research shows those who hold positive attitudes and stereotypes about aging, actually age more successfully.

Importance of Thinking Positively

Becca Levy and her research team at the Social and Behavioral Science Division at Yale University found that people who think positively about aging tend to have:

  • Increased physical functioning
  • Better self-perception
  • Greater sense of control
  • Stronger will to live
  • Increased ability to adapt to the rigors of aging
  • Live 7.5 years longer
Group of seniors doing aerobics

Dr. Levy also found that seniors with positive age stereotypes are 44% more likely to recover from serious health events and rebound from disabilities. So, consider the positives to growing older! Usually we are wiser, more confident, and have learned to be flexible and forgiving. Our world broadens as our extended family and network of friends continue to grow. And what about the joy of becoming a grandparent? Children remind us to be curious and playful. As Michael Prichard says, “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.” Focus on what is good and positive in life. Look for the beauty all around you in people, nature, art and music. Practice gratitude and enjoy the present. Reminisce, tell your stories and share your wisdom.

Let us not concern ourselves with finding the fountain of youth, but with learning to embrace our senior years and accept life as it comes; vision loss, wrinkles, Medicare and all!