Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss: An Affiliate on the Rise

by Jeff Thom and Deb Cook Lewis

With a rapidly increasing population of older individuals, and the high rate of significant vision loss experienced by this group, the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss is renewing its efforts to become the leading advocate for older people experiencing vision loss in the strong tradition of other ACB special-interest affiliates. With the commitment and efforts of current and potential AAVL members, we are making AAVL realize the dream envisioned by its founders Oral Miller, Teddie-Joy Remhild, and our immediate past president, John Huffman. After all, more than half the population of Americans with vision loss is over age 55, and available services are woefully inadequate to meet their needs. This problem potentially jeopardizes the physical and emotional health of these individuals — studies have shown that people fear vision loss almost as much as they fear cancer.

You may not have thought about joining AAVL, assuming that the organization’s primary purpose is to assist those newly experiencing vision loss, and you have been living with it for all or most of your life, but think again! As we age, we will most likely experience age-related hearing loss, diabetes, arthritis, etc. When these limitations are combined with vision loss, we may find ourselves facing new challenges. We learned at ACB’s recent leadership meetings, for example, that blind individuals with diabetes face unique challenges due to inaccessibility of necessary durable medical equipment. The ancillary purposes of AAVL apply to all seniors in the organization and include: advocating for the improvement of the social, economic and cultural status of adults with vision loss, and supporting education awareness and adult rehabilitation programs for the blind and visually impaired. Thus, the work done by AAVL benefits all of us.

Consider joining AAVL, attend our convention sessions, give us input on issues of importance to older individuals with vision impairments, and hold us accountable for outcomes. Now is the time to become more active at the local, state and national levels on issues impacting seniors with vision loss. Some are specific to our population, while others are of general concern to all seniors, including health care, transportation, recreation, housing, et cetera.

You can join for just $15 per year by contacting AAVL treasurer Kathy Gerhardt via email, kathy39lg@aol.com, or by phone at (304) 283-7424. The challenge of overcoming obstacles is equally an opportunity to foster success, so let’s continue to build a strong and impactful Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss.