100 Years: A Privilege!

July 18.jpgMadeleine Antonio-Sauvé, a CNIB client and donor, will celebrate her 100th birthday at the same time as our organization! Here is a glimpse into the life of a lady who can teach us a great deal. 

Madeleine was born in 1918, the same year CNIB was founded. She began losing her sight when she was 80 years old due to age-related macular degeneration. She has also had cancer on her eyelid, and paralysis from a stroke that prevents her from closing her left eye. She can still see silhouettes, but no longer recognizes faces or colours. However, neither age nor vision loss stop her. As she begins her hundredth year, she is totally independent, goes for walks twice a day and keeps up with current events. 

According to Madeleine, you need to stay active and never give up. “Life in a rocking chair is not for me,” she declares. 

What she has found most difficult is remaining independent despite her vision loss. 

“I live alone and had to learn how to get by,” she says. She explains that, among other things, she had to get used to using her sense of touch and develop a routine. To make life easier, she stopped cooking and now orders frozen meals. Some tools, like her white cane and the liquid indicator, which lets her know when a glass is full, are especially useful to her. 

“I also avoid danger,” she adds. “I take fewer risks. But I have no intention of stopping.”  

Madeleine first learned about the CNIB through its offering of audio books. 

“All my life, I collected books to read in my old age, but since I lost my vision, I can’t read them,” noted the avid reader. “CNIB’s audio books have been a blessing.” 

There are always 7 or 8 of the CNIB’s recorded books waiting on her bedside table. 

“Talking books are my pleasure in life,” she confides. “They’re marvelous, and provide psychological stimulation. I like to listen to books on history, philosophy, psychology and biographies. It’s very educational,” she continues. 

She reads for an hour or two in the evening before she goes to bed. At the moment, she is reading Trudeau’s biography.

Recently, Madeleine signed up for a CNIB support group to help get her out of the house, spend time with others, and feel less isolated. 

“The group introduced me to other people like myself, and I learned about their experiences.” 

She was inspired by people who have less vision than she does. She also enjoys the various topics discussed during the meetings, such as assertiveness and how to manage stress and grief, a topic she really did not want to miss. A hearing problem sometimes makes it difficult for her to follow conversations, but she truly enjoys the meetings and has managed to make the group laugh a few times, particularly with a salty story. 

“The group applauded me twice!” she enthuses proudly. “It was the first time in my life that’s happened!” 

Madeleine is impatiently looking forward to the next session. “It’s an outing for me!” she says, as she wants to have a social life.

She also greatly appreciated the CD given to her at the first meeting with all the existing resources for the vision-loss community. 

“It’s wonderful! I wish I had known about all these resources 10 years ago,” she adds. But what impressed her most was hearing about the CNIB’s history. “I was surprised to learn that the organization was created the year I was born!”  

“My youngest son is 72 and my oldest is 80, you know,” she laughed, talking about her 3 children who have given her 26 descendants. “I was very proud to have worked for over 20 years so they could be educated and become professionals.”  

After she retired, Madeleine did volunteer work for nearly 15 years. For eight hours a day, she accompanied elderly ladies in their activities, walking with them, going to the casino, playing dominos, whatever their interests were. 

“It’s what I enjoyed the most in my old age: giving pleasure to others, making their life easier.” 

Not being able to volunteer anymore is what hurt the most about having a disability. Still, she kept one lady company for nine years! And it was only three or four years ago, when she was about 95, that she stopped.

“I had to start taking time for myself,” she says. 

Now, she contributes to society by participating in a University of Montreal research project to enable seniors with visual and hearing disabilities to remain at home, a cause that is dear to her heart.

“You have to keep going, not feel sorry for yourself! You have to accept that you’re getting old. The wear starts to show at our age, you know... If I have started getting forgetful, it’s because my brain is tired and when my bones hurt, I tell myself that it’s normal lifetime wear. I do what I can with that I’ve still got.” 

“Being 100 years old is a privilege!” says Madeleine, aware that few people make it to her age. “I am happy to be this lucky, so I want to enjoy it as much as I can!”