Being diagnosed with macular degeneration can be a worry, with thoughts that many of the activities you took for granted might no longer be possible.
Starts at 60’s CEO and founder Rebecca Wilson understands how that feels, because her stepmother was only in her 50s when she got her macular degeneration diagnosis.
“My step mum was told she wouldn’t be able to live her life like the young person she still felt she was, and the idea terrified her,” Rebecca remembers. “She was imagining not being able to read books with normal print, or even read the face of her watch.
“But we took a trip to the Vision Australia store – and I have to admit, it wasn’t a trip she was looking forward to – and it was such an exciting discovery, because there were so many vision aids we had no idea existed, things that help you live everyday life without having to ask for help or having other people notice your vision issues.”
Macular degeneration – a disease that affects a special layer of cells in the eye – is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness, and over-50s are particularly at risk, with one in seven Aussies aged over 50 showing some sign of the disease.
With such a life-changing disease being so common among older Australians, Starts at 60 has teamed up with not for-profit organisation Vision Australia for May’s macular awareness month to raise awareness of the clever products out there that can soften the blow of a macular degeneration diagnosis.
Vision Australia’s even offered a generous 10 per cent off the full price of its hundreds of products just for Starts at 60’s readers.
“We found so many helpful things for my step mum,” Rebecca says. “Tools that helped you chop food for cooking without chopping your fingers, magnifiers for everything from reading fine print to putting your make-up on, even watches with larger numerals that were so delicate and feminine, no one would look twice at them and realise the numbers were magnified.”
Here are some of the smartest, most helpful products Vision Australia can provide. You can see these products and many others in any one of the 28 stores around Australia, or purchase them online.
Clever kitchen aids
Instead of trying to interpret the beeps a normal microwave makes, the Cobolt Talking Microwave ($630 or $850 for the combination version) tells the user which functions they’re selecting as well as providing cooking instructions, even telling the cook when it’s time to stir their food so it doesn’t spill over.
Vision Australia also has talking kitchen scales (from $86), kettles ($100), thermometers ($75) and measuring jugs ($200).
For lower-tech kitchen help, there is a range of simple tools, such as a Bread-Cutter Guide Board ($50) and Audible Liquid Level Indicators ($19), that can help prevent nasty injuries from boiling water and sharp knives, while non-slip mugs ($34) and Staybowlizer bowls ($34) ensure no accidents while eating.
Talking Tin Lids ($15) and Band-It Tactile Bands ($19 for 10), meanwhile, save the guesswork when it comes to working out what’s in the pantry.
Smart sewing help
Trying to thread a sewing machine needle when you can’t quite see the eye is infuriating! But the Infila needle threader ($13.00) does the work for you with the push of a button, working on both single- and double-threading needles. For hand-sewing, packs of pre-threaded needles and self-threading needs start at just $3.
Low-vision watches look nothing like a vision aid, just a fashionable watch with larger numerals on a contrasting background for ease of reading – no one would know it’s not a cool style statement. Large-print watches start at $36.
Meanwhile, tactile watches (from $58) allow you to tell the time without even looking at the numerals, because they have crystals worked into the design that actually mark the hours, allowing the wearer to tell the time by touch. And talking watches (from $65) announce the time, date and alarm settings, without any need for sight or touch.
IrisVision may look like an old-fashioned viewfinder but this wearable device is a high-tech product that combines virtual reality technology from Samsung with Vision Australia’s own software.
Controlled with a touchpad on the headset or via Bluetooth remote, the wearer can adjust the vision brought to them on a high-definition display screen inside the device so everyday life, from reading a newspaper to seeing a friend’s face, is brought back into clear focus.
IrisVision, which retails at $4,000, is available at 10 per cent off to Starts at 60 readers.
Magnification for all situations
Vision Australia has magnification devices and magnifier-light combos for every situation and budget including these three favourites that are eligible for the 10 per cent-off offer for Starts at 60 readers
The Explore 5 ($995) is designed for people who want to use their vision aid on the go – for example, to read a dinner menu or decipher a map – with a handheld option, 22X magnification and autofocus for keeping track of live images.
For finer print that you may read at home, the Clearview C ($3,990) is a desktop device that offers 75X magnification, integrated lighting to make even glossy pages easy to read, and a cleverly designed stand that will take up little space on a desk, craft bench or worktop.
The Eschenbach 3.5x LED handheld optical magnifier is a portable device with 3.5X magnification that’s made for ease of use, with a simple on-off switch and built-in illumination.
Have you been diagnosed with macular degeneration? Have you used any aids to help you adapt?
Shop our wide collection of aids and technology designed to have you or a loved one benefit from seeing more clearly in ALL aspects of daily life.