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I miss being able to see people

Posted on 10 October 2017 at 10:45am by Disabilities Resource Centre, Southland

Invercargill woman Mona Robertson suffers from macular degeneration and is going blind, but still helps out at her daughter's city cafe. She misses seeing the faces of people most of all.

The 82-year-old Invercargill woman is going blind and it's happening fast. Robertson first noticed her eyesight failing about two years ago when every-day things started becoming difficult, such as putting plugs into wall sockets and reading the newspaper.

Diagnosed with macular degeneration, her right eye started failing her and then her left eye quickly followed. Anything more than a couple of metres away is now a shape or "blur" and she will go completely blind, perhaps as soon as Christmas, she says. "I miss being able to see people. I can't recognise my friends. It's hard."

Robertson will be one of the people collecting money for the Blind Foundation in Southland on Friday and Saturday.  The Blind Foundation supports Kiwis affected by blindness or sight loss, providing practical and emotional support.

Every day in New Zealand at least three New Zealanders are told they are losing their sight, the Blind Foundation website says. Robertson says she misses helping people as well as seeing them. She was a meals on wheels volunteer for 32 years and did other voluntary work, but being unable to drive has restricted her ability to help in the community.

"I just loved meeting people and doing things for people, I can't do it any more." But her failing eyesight has not stopped her from continuing to live life.  She helps out at her daughter's city cafe, walks regularly with the aid of a cane, enjoys listening to the radio and has immersed herself in activities associated with the Blind Foundation in Invercargill.

The Blind Foundation had given her a lifeline and she enjoys the company of others who are also partially sighted and blind. "I have met such wonderful people." "Gordon at the desk is totally blind but he knows your voice. That's the thing I have to get used to, picking up people's voices and knowing who they are.  "It's a learning curve."  She is confident of leading a fulfilling life when she is totally blind, she says.  "I have come to terms with it."

Robertson's daughter, Jo Hebbend, said it was hard seeing her mother lose her sight, given how active she was. She urged people to get their eyesight checked quickly when it started failing.

Abridged, Taken from an article by Evan Harding, Southland Times, 4 October 2017

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