Event highlights visual impairments in elderly

Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy student Gabi Napier (20) leads polytech chief executive Phil Ker over common obstacles while he is wearing special glasses and an elderly body simulation suit so he can experience what it is like to be an elderly per
Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy student Gabi Napier (20) leads polytech chief executive Phil Ker over common obstacles while he is wearing special glasses and an elderly body simulation suit so he can experience what it is like to be an elderly person with vision impairment. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Wearing special glasses and elderly body simulation suits, some Dunedin residents looked a sight last night at an event aimed at showing what it feels like to be elderly and have visual impairments.

The event, run by Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy students in collaboration with Vision Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa New Zealand and Retina New Zealand, highlighted the un-met needs of mainly elderly people, who have refractive errors, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinopathy, corneal clouding and several infections.

Event spokeswoman Keri McMullan said more than 100,000 New Zealanders had incurable vision loss, but they were not ''blind enough'' to qualify for help from the Blind Foundation.

The event highlighted the lack of services and created an opportunity for people to talk about how a service could be developed. She said the event was intended as a conversation starter and it was hoped a steering group could be established to take a proposal to the next stage in terms of getting it funded.

''We are not going to wait forever for a Government that is blind and deaf to the needs of people with visual impairment.

''We want to talk to anyone who can help us to realise our vision for a clinic without walls, which serves the needs of people with visual impairment, by training the next generation of professionals.

''The future is going to look different to the present and we need to create pilots that can be examples and metaphors for the future.''

One way of creating a service was to develop collaborations between educational institutions and the community, she said.

''This is what we are doing.''

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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