Twelve seniors with vision loss in need of extraordinary volunteers in Annapolis Valley

5/22/2015

​The expansion of an innovative volunteer initiative to Annapolis Valley aims to reduce social isolation and increase engagement among seniors who are blind or partially sighted.

CNIB’s Vision Mate program provides one-on-one, sighted assistance for daily living by matching individuals with vision loss with specially-trained volunteers, who offer friendly companionship and help with day-to-day tasks and errands.

This unique program is officially launching in the Annapolis Valley region in May, where 12 CNIB clients – ranging in age from 60 to 95 years old – are waiting to be matched with a sighted volunteer in Gaspereau, Kentville, Middleton, New Minas, Windsor, and Wolfville.

Lin Roy is one of those 12 individuals currently in need of a Vision Mate volunteer. Sixty-one-year-old Gaspereau resident lives with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye condition that has caused her vision to significantly deteriorate over the last 12 years. Roy says that she is very independent, but that there are many times that she could use an extra hand.

“I’ve always loved to garden. Since my vision has worsened, it’s become much more difficult for me. It would be so nice to have someone help me prune my shrubs,” said Roy. “Having someone to read my old letters and sort through and organize old clothes – those little, everyday things would be a great help to me.”

While Roy is very social, for many individuals vision loss can be an incredibly isolating and overwhelming experience, especially in rural communities.

In fact, compared to people who are sighted, people with blindness or partial sight experience increased isolation and depression, and reduced socialization.

“Over the years, we’ve seen firsthand that a Vision Mate volunteer can make a big difference in reducing the stress, anxiety and loneliness that’s sometimes associated with living with blindness or partial sight,” said Jeff deViller, Coordinator of Volunteer Services in Nova Scotia.

In addition to increasing engagement and social opportunities for individuals who are blind or partially sighted, Vision Mate volunteers provide assistance with a variety of everyday activities that many sighted people may take for granted.

Volunteer activities may include reading books and mail, writing letters, organizing pictures and photo albums, wood working, picking outfits, going for walks, and assisting with grocery shopping.

To date, more than 55 Vision Mate matches have been made across Nova Scotia.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with the Vision Mate program in Halifax and Sydney,” says deViller. “Now we’re able to recruit and train Vision Mates in the Annapolis Valley and it has the potential to do a lot of good for individuals living with vision loss in those communities.”

Vision Mates volunteer for two hours each week in their own neighborhood, on days and times that are convenient for them. To learn more about the Vision Mate program and how you can get involved, call CNIB Nova Scotia at 902.453.1480 or email jeff.deviller@cnib.ca.

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