By Jon Bishop

jbishop@nashobapub.com

REGION -- Shaun Kinsella, director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, or MABVI, said that the aging of the baby boomer generation is a demographic tsunami.

Thus, age-related vision loss is becoming an epidemic.

But the MABVI is here to help.

MABVI was founded in 1903 and is the oldest human service agency in the country that provides service to adults with vision loss. Helen Keller served on its first advisory board.

"What we're doing is building (the) capacity to enable elders with vision loss to live as independently as possible," Kinsella said.

They offer functional low-vision assessments, which measure the vision someone has left, Kinsella said. And then they develop strategies to help people "do the things they used to do in different ways."

And now they'll be better able to do that in this area. The Nashoba Valley Community Healthcare Fund, a joint grant initiative of the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts and the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, has given MABVI $5,000.

This is the third year of an effort to increase access to vision rehabilitation in the Nashoba Valley region, Kinsella said.

"For Nashoba Valley, there aren't very many low-vision providers around the state," Kinsella said, noting that the nearest ones are in places like Worcester.


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"We're building capacities by either developing our own clinics or partnering with optometrists to develop their own clinics."

The MABVI, Kinsella said, provides in-home vision rehabilitation by occupational therapists.

"They go into the consumer's home and teach them how" to do things like put on makeup, shave and use technology, he said.

"How do you use your bathroom if you can't see what's in your bathroom?" he said.

They also will do assessments of the home to reduce falls.

"We can adjust lighting to make things easier for people," he said. They can also help people who need to take medications.

MABVI has support groups, too. They give people "an opportunity to share what's going on in their lives," he said.

There are also volunteer services, Kinsella said.

"We can provide somebody to take you grocery shopping," he said.

The group can teach people with vision loss to use iPads, because iPads have accessibility features in them. "We can train people how to do that," he said. "We can help them load their iPads with apps."

The grant will enable MABVI to do outreach. "Outreach is expensive," he said.

According to Kinsella, the MABVI will work with anyone who has noncorrectable vision loss. And what they do is important, because there aren't many services available to the elderly.

"If you're of working age, there are a lot more services available to you," he said. "But if you're 70 and you lose your sight, there is much less support and much less funding."

"We'll go anywhere," he said. "Wherever there is a need, we'll develop the service."

For information on MABVI and the work they do, visit www.mabvi.org.

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