Wednesday, 11th July 2012
One third of older people with sight loss cannot navigate local area independently
More than one third of older people with sight loss never go out in their local area without a sighted guide, according to a report published recently by NCBI, the national sight loss agency, and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB). People over the age of 65, many of whom have lost their sight due to age-related eye conditions, reported that the poor design of their local environments and public transport were the main obstacles to getting out and about independently. The National Mobility Report: mobility experiences and perceptions of blind and vision impaired persons, found that reduced mobility greatly affects quality of life and limits opportunities for social participation among older people. There are 340 people registered as blind in Waterford.
The length of time a person has been living with sight loss has an effect on their independence and ability to cope. While 46% of those under the age of 65 had sight loss either from birth or childhood, more than half (55%) of those over 65 lost their sight in the last 10 years. They have therefore had to come to terms, both practically and emotionally, with impaired vision in early old age, while managing other health, disability and age-related issues.
Des Kenny, chief executive of NCBI, notes that while older people report difficulty in getting about independently, they are not keen to take up opportunities for mobility training when offered. "The National Mobility Report shows that 92% of older participants would not consider mobility training as they feel they are managing without it. They may get by with some informal training, with support from family and friends or it they may find the idea of formal mobility training too daunting if they have other health or disability concerns, as 59% reported.”
Mobility training includes training in using a long cane, a symbol cane, a guide dog or a sighted guide. A long cane is the most popular form of mobility aid, with 18% of participants using this method, while 5% are guide dog users and 5.5% use a symbol cane, which is not a mobility aid but lets other people know that the user has a vision impairment and may need assistance.
The report recommends the development of a national vision strategy to ensure that a multi-disciplinary approach is taken to addressing the problems of dealing with mobility in older people with sight loss, who are also dealing with other health and disability issues. The findings will enable Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and NCBI to work together to communicate the value and importance of mobility training directly to people with impaired vision and to develop opportunities for peer support. This report will also encourage an interdisciplinary approach between service providers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
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