by Marilyn Lutter and Penny Reeder

The Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss (AAVL) is a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. Although we are one of ACB's youngest affiliates we were founded only a dozen years ago -- our members are among those in ACB who have accumulated the most years of experience with blindness and with coming together in organizations to improve conditions for people who are blind, change lives, and gain support from one another.

The event that spurred ACB members to found a separate affiliate to concentrate on age-related vision loss was an epidemic of age-related macular degeneration, which continues to affect increasing numbers of people between the ages of 50 and 90. Believing that people who experience blindness later in life are too often at a loss about coping with diminished vision, frequently depressed, and too likely to give up on their abilities to live independently and well, ACB members decided to form the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss to confront these problems and reach out to the aging population who experience vision loss in their later years.

Other causes of vision loss associated with age include: diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, stroke and glaucoma. Whatever the cause, loss of vision in later life can present seemingly insurmountable challenges to people who have been used to relying on good vision, and for their family members and friends. Loss of vision is one of the most feared health complications, and grief and depression often accompany vision loss.

We in AAVL welcome anyone who is losing vision in later life, as well as blind and visually impaired women and men who want to reach out to others for whom blindness is a new experience, and offer support. In addition, we welcome everyone in ACB who is getting older (and who isn't?), who finds the complications of aging to be particularly burdensome for those of us who already have long experience with vision loss.

Are you coming to Phoenix for the ACB national convention in July? If you are, we hope you will add AAVL's events to your schedule of programs, luncheons, and get-togethers. We would love to meet you and to talk with you about all the ways we can work together to offer support to older people who are blind and visually impaired. We hope you can come to our luncheon and business meeting on Monday, July 12, and our program and musical mixer on Wednesday, July 14. We would love to get to know you, and we hope that you will attend some of our events and our interesting convention programs and decide to join us.

AAVL membership dues are only $15 a year. Check your registration information for luncheon costs and convention registration fees, and add AAVL to your schedule of convention events. Of course, you don't have to attend the ACB national convention to get to know us better. Contact Oral O. Miller, our president, or call ACB's national office, or visit the ACB web site to pay your dues and sign up for membership. We will add you to the list of subscribers to our award-winning newsletter, "The Hourglass," and welcome your involvement in our organization where getting older is no excuse for not making a difference!

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