"I felt the entire experience was most rewarding. It was so helpful to me to talk with others who face the same problems as I and to get their feedback. Before coming there I felt rather isolated and I found I'm not alone!"
(Note: All quotes contained within this newsletter are from past Senior Orientation participants.)
Twice a year, the Iowa Department for the Blind's Independent Living Program offers a weeklong training program called Senior Orientation. Older Iowans from around the state travel to Des Moines to learn simple, non-visual techniques for every day tasks. The skills of blindness are important, but the week is about much more. It provides the participants with increased confidence, greater self-reliance, and a renewed sense of self-worth.
When asked why she would recommend Senior Orientation to others, one lady stated, "Just to be with others who are experiencing the same vision problems...being encouraged and affirmed that I can do things and independence is possible for me."
Some individuals report that their family discourages certain tasks such as cutting meat or using the stove out of safety concerns. Some restrict themselves from these activities while others move into a facility whose staff will perform daily activities for them, further limiting their independence.
"I learned so many things...I had no idea there were things to be taught to us, that were taught to us."
As you have probably guessed, the approach at Senior Orientation is much different. Participants are taught ways to complete daily activities for themselves. If staff hears "I can't" from a participant, encouragement and suggestions are provided so the person is able to complete the task independently, and "I can't" turns into "I can!" If provided with the opportunity and effective techniques, a person who is blind can perform just about any task that a sighted person can.
"You will receive kindness with firmness in training."
When asked what was most valuable about Senior Orientation, one lady responded, "Sharing. Realizing there is life after blindness. We can do things."
Others have stated:
"...best time I had for a long time."
"What I have learned this week has been awesome."
"All the teachers are so great, everybody is so professional."
After leaving Senior Orientation, the participant continues to receive skills training, within his/her own community, through a rehabilitation teacher. Often, strong friendships form during the week not only between participants but among participants and staff as well. Many choose to keep in touch to provide support to one another long after they return home.
If you know someone who is losing their vision and could benefit from services through the Iowa Department for the Blind, call 800-362-2587 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Services are available statewide, are confidential, and most are provided at no cost. Individuals do not have to be legally blind to qualify. Contact us today!
To find out what is happening at the Department and in your area, choose the Upcoming Events link.
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INDEPENDENT LIVING PROGRAM NEWSLETTER is published by the Iowa Department for the Blind. Please direct questions and suggestions to the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-2364, 515-281-1333.