Activities for visually impaired senior citizens

Written by judy prather
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Activities for visually impaired senior citizens
Loss of vision by the elderly can lead to social isolation and depression. (Ebby May/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Declining vision is a common malady of ageing. Whether the vision impairment is caused by the natural process of ageing, such as cataracts or macular degeneration, or a complication of another disease, such as diabetes, the emotional impact can be devastating. Involvement in meaningful activities can reduce the risk of social isolation and depression.

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Reading

Adequate lighting is essential for maximum viewing and avoiding eye strain. Large-print books and magazines provide a larger font, generally 18 point, for ease of reading. If the large-print is difficult to read, a "near" low-vision-optical-device may be helpful. These devices are designed to be used for close-at-hand projects such as reading and crafts. Hand held magnifiers are useful for spot-reading, such as finding numbers in the phone book, but can be cumbersome for reading long articles or books. Free standing magnifiers are available, reducing hand fatigue and offering a greater magnified viewing area.

If reading is too difficult or impossible, audio books are an alternative to the written page. Books and periodicals on cassette and CD are readily available to purchase or rent in retail stores and on the Internet. If cost is an issue, many local libraries have a variety of titles available to borrow. The National Library Service for the Blind and the Physically Handicapped offers free listening devices and audio books to people meeting their criteria.

Crafts

Loss of vision does not limit creativity. Many art and craft projects can be modified for the visually impaired. Weaving is an excellent project for Senior Citizens. It is an easily learnt, repetitive process that offers hand exercise and tactile stimulation. Using different sizes of yarns or fabric allows the artisan to differentiate colours by touch. Different textiles may be used depending on the weaver's hand dexterity and ability. Yarn or threads can be used for intricate patterns, while wider strips of fabric or plastic reed can be used for easier manipulation. Common weaving projects are: potholders, place mats, rag-rugs and baskets.

Hands free low-vision-optical devices are available to assist the visually impaired hobbyist. These devices are magnifiers either held in a stand, worn around the neck or mounted on the user's forehead using a head band.

Games

Games are more than a recreational pastime. They are an opportunity for socialisation and stimulating the mind. Many traditional games have been modified for the visually impaired. Extra large bingo and playing cards allow participation in group games with greater independence. Modified versions of chess, draughts, dominoes and dice are also available.

If the Senior Citizen's visual impairment is too severe to allow active participation in board type games, an audio focused game, such as Name that Tune is an option. When playing Name that Tune, be sure the playlist is era appropriate. While keeping score for correct answers is an option, this game does not require a winner. The music often leads to reminiscing and sing-a-longs.

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