As I get older, I think about my eyesight more often. Several years ago, a routine eye exam revealed the beginning stages of age related macular degeneration, AMD. This was not surprising, because many of my paternal relatives, particularly the Andersons, have had this same condition.
The last decade of my dad’s life was hampered by AMD and other low vision problems. He resigned to these developments because his mother, my grandma Johnson, suffered through her own AMD issues. Most of her brothers, my great uncles, had to deal with various degrees of AMD.
Dad eventually had to give up detailed clock restoration, driving his car, writing, and reading. Dad had me investigate tools to help him cope with daily life. He finally settled on some high-tech magnifiers, a “talking” calculator, and a “talking” clock. Dad didn’t adapt well to his vision problems. I couldn’t convince him to listen to audio books, nor music, nor other resources from the public library. During his last two years, the only gadget he cared to use was the “talking” clock.
Regarding my own vision history, at age seven, I was fitted with “Coke bottle” lenses to correct severe near-sightedness and astigmatism. I received progressively stronger glasses throughout childhood and adolescence. My first pair of bifocals were fitted by age 35. The AMD diagnosis showed up in 1992.
Reading is one of the greatest pleasures in my life. So, when the bifocals became less effective, I soon discovered that I am able to read better without glasses. Strangely enough, I can make out fine details when I hold a book or object about 30-cm (approximately 12-inches) from my face. I can still perform simple, fine tasks like changing a watch strap by bringing my face close to the work.
One of the best tools to help me with the Internet is the page reader. My laptop came equipped with Toshiba’s “Web Reader”. Unfortunately, it only works with Internet Explorer, Windows Mail software, Wordpad, and Notepad. (I’ve tried other products, but have been unsatisfied with their performance.) All I need to do is find a compatible web page, highlight a word, then click “play”. I can then rest my eyes while taking in the content. The Toshiba reader has been a boon to my continued learning experiences.
Some of the best features of the Internet are podcasts. I subscribe to those that feature topics of personal and educational value. YouTube, Vimeo, and similar services provide interesting material, too. When my eyes begin to defocus, I can rest them and just listen to the soundtracks of the videos.
My friends know that audiobooks are my favorite way of consuming long-form information. I still return to some of my old favorites on Compact Disc and audio cassette formats. Of course, audiobooks are also available in online formats.
Fortunately, if I don’t overdo computer work and entertainment, each day, my eyes still function well. I was able to pass the requirements for my new driver’s license last summer. I’m still able to enjoy creative pursuits like photography and the floral arts. At bedtime, I can remove my eyeglasses to enjoy reading a good paper and ink book.
I remain very grateful that I still can enjoy reasonably serviceable vision. I’m also thankful for the many ways that people with AMD and low vision can function in daily life and contribute to society because of new technological advances. Not only am I grateful for each new day, but I’m thankful for each day that I am able to see.
February is National AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month. Take time to explore the Web for more information and resources.