The holidays can be wonderful, but the many activities surrounding this time of year can present some unique challenges for women over 50 or their loved ones living with low vision. Low vision is a vision impairment that is not correctable with surgery, contacts or glasses. Persons with low vision often find everyday tasks difficult to do.
Did you know that according to research by National Eye Institute, the number of people with low vision in the U.S. will increase from almost 3 million today, to double that number in 2030? 70% to 75% of new cases of vision loss occur in the 65 plus age group.
Fortunately, by utilizing a few basic adaptive strategies and aids, anyone with low vision can enjoy all the opportunities this special season has to offer! If you or someone you know has low vision, here are top tips and tricks for making the holidays fun and accessible:
1) If sending holiday greeting cards is one of your traditions, using a writing guide or template and a flair tipped pen can keep this activity easy and enjoyable.
2) Why not transfer a holiday contact list in an old address book to a new, large print version? This can be a terrific activity for a helpful grandchild.
3) Cooking is a time-honored pastime. If favorite recipes are becoming difficult to read, consider re-typing them in large, bold font and preserving them in a large print recipe book. You might also consider sliding each page into a plastic sleeves that can be wiped clean of spills. What a perfect gift for a friend or relative with low vision!
4) Speaking of cooking, when preparing a holiday meal, keep all pot handles turned toward the side of the stove. This will keep them out of the way and prevent unnecessary spills.
5) Lighting your home for the holidays is a fun and important part of the season. Make sure all extension cords are safely out of the way of foot traffic to prevent accidents.
6) When visiting friends and family, why not bring along a flashlight to illuminate dark walkways and entryways?
7) Getting ready for holiday gatherings is difficult if personal care items are hard to visually identify. Being organized can help! The best way to keep things in order is to group them together into one place. For example, you could have one drawer for all of your hair care items, one for your make-up, and another filled with bath accessories.
8) Sometimes tactile markings, or marks that you can feel rather than see, can be helpful in identifying items like shampoo or lotion bottles. Rubber bands make perfect tactile markers. Put one rubber band around your shampoo and two rubber bands around your conditioner – you’ll always be able to tell them apart!
9) Makeup can be challenging to use as vision decreases. Consider leaving lipstick in your refrigerator – you’ll be better able to feel where you are applying it.
10) Ensuring your hair is in order is, of course, a primary concern. Magnification mirrors can make a huge difference in how well you’re able judge your appearance.
11) Picking out the right outfit is important. Make sure you’ve got the right choice by ensuring your closet is well-lit. Good organization or marking dark colored clothing with a tactile marking system can also help. Consider keeping black clothing in one part of your closet and dark blue in a separate part. Or, attach safety pins to black clothes so you can tell them apart from brown ones.
12) If company visits, ask them to remember to close cabinets, not to leave doors ajar, and to respect home organization.
13) Holiday shopping is a pleasure, but reading small labels on merchandise can be difficult. Bringing along a handheld magnifier can make the experience easier.
14) Going out to eat with friends is fun. Organizing your cash beforehand can reduce confusion when paying your bill. Keep denominations in separate compartments of your wallet or have a system or folding bills for identification.
15) Finally, we all know how busy schedules are this time of year. A large print calendar and a low vision or talking watch will keep you up to speed on all the activities!
So don’t let low vision interfere with enjoyment of the season! Living with low vision isn’t always easy, but learning compensatory strategies can greatly improve functioning and independence. Making small changes to daily activities or using basic adaptive aids can turn the holidays from frustrating to fun!