FriendshipWorks’ enduring mission is to end elder isolation and replace it with the warmth and comfort of caring and dedicated friends. In this vein, we are committed to addressing the myriad conditions that can precipitate an elder becoming socially isolated. While most of us have some visual changes as we age, for some elders this loss is life-altering and can lead to social isolation and loneliness. This is why FriendshipWorks has a special focus on addressing elder vision loss.
Vision loss can affect social interactions and safety, especially for elders living alone. While vision loss in elders is not all the same, it frequently affects mobility, reading, computer usage, cooking, safety, driving and other daily living skills. Here are ten tips from optometrist Dr. Cathy Stern, on how to provide assistance and support for someone experiencing vision loss:
- When walking with someone with vision loss, offer your arm and have them hold your elbow so you will be a half-step ahead of them. This allows them to feel your movements and quickly adjust their gait or direction of movement in order to move forward safely.
- If a home has stairs, place bright, contrasting tape on each stair edge or paint a stripe on the edges of wood stairs. This goes for stairs both inside and outside.
- Avoid the use of throw rugs, entryway mats or ﬂoor clutter like shoes to minimize falls.
- White bathtubs should have the middle third of the threshold painted a contrasting color to make getting in and out safer.
- Control glare by providing cool white light centered over a task area, as too much light can be as much of a problem as too little light.
- Label kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and countertop canisters with contrasting paper and a bold, sans-serif font to make identifying important food or cooking items easier.
- Place light colored food such as white potatoes on a dark plate and place darker colored food such as green vegetables on a white place for higher contrast and easier identiﬁcation.
- Encourage use of a black felt tip pen and light yellow paper for writing reminders or notes.
- Large-type playing cards or tactile versions of games will allow someone with vision loss to maintain social interaction and social contacts.
- Always talk directly to the person with vision loss and do not talk around them by directing questions to a nearby relative or friend. Also don’t shout if a person has no signiﬁcant hearing loss.
In order to raise awareness about elder vision loss and share available resources, we have partnered with Boston’s low vision experts to offer a free half-day forum on June 8, 2017 (to learn more click here).
Dr. Cathy D. Stern specializes in Behavioral Optometry, Vision Therapy, Developmental Optometry and Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation. To learn more about her services click here.