According to statistics from the National Eye Institute, by 2050 the estimated number of people affected by most common eye diseases will double. The leading causes of vision loss are cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (by age 80 one American in 10 will have late stage AMD), diabetic retinopathy (some 27 percent of people with diabetes don’t know they have it), and glaucoma. The bottom line: if you’re over 60, get your eyes checked every year.
Technology steps up
Luckily, seniors who are visually impaired have an increasing number of aids to help them stay independent – so many, in fact, that some seniors with vision loss may benefit from receiving services from a CVRT (Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist). CVRTs provide instruction in use of adaptive equipment, technique and technology to assist visually impaired seniors to remain safe and independent in their homes.
Some of the leading assistant devices include:
Voice Labeling Systems: Electronic audio labeling systems allow the user to label items (foods, household items, files). The device is used to record information on small self-adhesive labels in the user’s voice. (Magnetic labels and waterproof labels are also available.) Devices typically have 100 hours of recording time and some have MP3. Devices have internal memory and information may be saved to computer.
Digital Voice Recorders: When keeping written notes and reminders becomes difficult, use of a digital voice recorder is a convenient way to keep track of information. Several digital recorders can be operated using only buttons and auditory clues.
iBill: The iBill device is a helpful electronic tool that will discreetly read aloud different bill denominations. Small and easy to use, this battery-operated device is equipped with earphone port for privacy.
Talking Devices: Many daily tasks are made easier with talking devices. A talking clock or wristwatch allows users to tell time independently. With talking scales and fever thermometers, people can manage their own health care tasks without help. Liquid level indicators and talking timers help manage meal preparation tasks. The list of talking devices continues to grow as technology continues to expand.
Electronic Magnification: Use of technology has improved how visually impaired seniors benefit from magnification. Electronic magnification can be desktop (CCTV) or handheld. The user is able to adjust magnification size, font, and contrast. Many electronic magnifiers have read aloud feature.
Smartphone Technology: Smartphone/tablet technology continues to expand – providing visually impaired users with numerous options for communication, identification, and safe mobility. Users benefit from instruction to understand and use accessibility features built into their device (magnification, voice assistance, color/contrast/size). With this help, users can manage calendars, take notes and reminders and use the voice recorder on their smartphones. The list of smartphone apps that benefit seniors with visual impairments is ever expanding. Identification apps uses device camera to read text, documents, colors, currency, and bar codes.
Bio: Lisa Sluszka is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (CVRT) and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) at VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides instruction to people of all ages who are blind to lead independent and active lives in their homes and communities VISIONS is an NYC-based non-profit agency; learn about their services to older people here. Those over the age of 55 may contact VISIONS directly at 212-625-1616 for information.
Note: Lisa Sluszka will give a presentation on equipment and technology used in vision rehab instruction at Senior Planet NYC (127 W. 25th Street) on Wednesday, July 31 from 1:30pm-3:00pm. RSVP is required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-590-0615.
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