Our Stories

Thriving Beyond Ninety: Frances Story

4 June 2024

An elderly woman standing in front of a wall with a picture frame.

Frances has always been a beacon of warmth and love for her family. At 91, she lives independently in her cozy unit in Christchurch, surrounded by memories of a life well-lived. Just a year ago, she celebrated her 90th birthday with a grand party arranged by her beloved granddaughter. “It was such a lovely time,” Frances reminisced. “I felt so special, surrounded by all my children, grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren.”

Frances has five children, fifteen grandchildren, and seventeen great-grandchildren. She has quite the extended family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them. In her younger years, she was an avid bowls player. But things changed when she turned 80 and was diagnosed with macular degeneration. It started subtly; she didn’t even notice anything wrong with her vision until she went to renew her driver’s license. “That was a really big thing,” she said about losing her ability to drive.

Over the years, her sight deteriorated to the point where she could only see shadows and had to rely on recognizing people by their walk and voice. “There are a lot of things you don’t notice when you can see, which become noticeable when you can’t see,” Frances explained. One of her greatest frustrations was being unable to read her mail. “It affects everything I do. I have always loved pottering in my garden, but it is getting more difficult,” she said. Despite this, she learned to identify weeds by feel, allowing her to continue enjoying her garden.

After a visit to her optician revealed that nothing more could be done to improve her vision, Frances was introduced to the services of Blind Low Vision NZ (BLVNZ). At first, she was devastated. The thought of losing more of her sight was overwhelming. But BLVNZ introduced her to talking books and then to an Alexa. “It was so good to be able to hear a good story again. I have really missed being able to read a good book, and the Alexa is the same as a book. You can pick it up again at any time. I just sit back and ‘read’ and relax. It’s lovely.”

With the help of BLVNZ’s Adaptive Communication and Technology Trainers, Frances also set up her mobile phone to be more accessible and was introduced to a magnifier. These small changes have made a world of difference in her daily life.

“I am now very content and happy with my life,” Frances said. “In my younger days, I thought that 91 was ancient and old, but my life isn’t like that. I enjoy life. I am out and about. I have good friends who I go to lunch with. We eat and have a laugh.” Frances was deeply appreciative of the support from BLVNZ. “They have made my life worthwhile, and I am now enjoying my life. For a while, things like going out and enjoying other people’s company seemed to be over, but their help has given that to me all over again. They do such good work for people who need help. You really can’t help yourself and need to be shown, and it’s all there as long as you know it is there. Getting that help makes the difference.”

Image description: Frances smiling at the camera. She is standing indoors in front of a wall and picture frame. Frances is wearing a grey cardigan and a patterned dress.


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