Trailblazing pensioner trials new technology solutions to blindness

BY CALUM FRASER
calum@slpmedia.co.uk

Ivy Bolach is losing her sight but she refuses to let it slow her down.

At the age of 84 she abseiled down a church tower to raise cash for charity. Now, aged 88, the Blackheath resident is trailblazing new technology solutions to blindness.

She is trialing a pair of glasses called SightPlus.

They look like a virtual reality headset and they give her “super HD” vision for two hours a day.

She said: “I look like I have just come out of a Bond film.

When I first put them on, I almost cried. “It was delightful. I had not seen someone clearly for so long, and now I can.”

Macular Degeneration (MD) is a medical condition that occurs due to damage to the back of the eye, the macula.

It is common in older people and every day more than 200 people are diagnosed with it in the UK, according to the Macular Society.

Ivy  said: “I might be an old dear, but I’m no slouch. I’m not going to give in. Losing your sight does not have to be a life sentence. Tech can help.

“I love my independence and I don’t want to lose that.”

The glasses combine a near-distance magnifier and a long-distance telescope.

The viewer sees the image on a screen an inch away from their face.

Ivy lives in the Rectory Court care home in Blackheath.

But the SightPlus glasses are not the only tech devices Ivy uses.

She said: “I go to Blind Craft every month. This man came in with a letter and he didn’t have anybody to read it to him.

“It’s so easy for tech to help with this. I have a reader that scans letters and then reads them out to you.

“I wear ‘Google glasses’ when I go to church. I have my blind stick out so people think I can’t see them. But with these glasses on, I get a little voice in my ear that recognises who is there and it tells me.

“I say ‘hello’, and they’re always taken by surprise. Some of them ignore me which is not very pleasant.”

The Google glasses are also part of a test trial Ivy is using.

Sue Dawber​, home admissions advisor at Rectory Court, said: “Ivy is at the forefront of technological solutions to macular degeneration.

She keeps us on our toes.

The fact she abseiled down a church a few years ago gives you an idea of what kind of character she is.”

GiveVision, formed from a group of scientists, engineers and social entrepreneurs, has spent four years
developing SightPlus.

The Macular Society is a charity fighting to end sight loss.

To find out more  about the charity and the condition, go to www.macularsociety.org


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3 thoughts on “Trailblazing pensioner trials new technology solutions to blindness

  • 5th July 2018 at 5:06 pm
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    Go Ivy, you are our super Mum and Granny.
    Nothing stops you, that is fan-tas-tic!
    We love you💖

    Reply
  • 6th July 2018 at 8:19 am
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    Having known Ivy for 15 years with her eyesight slowing decreasing I can say she is the most wonderful independent person we know my husband and I love her dearly like our mum. I hope this gives her an opportunity to see the flowers and birds and life she misses. Much love Ivy.

    Reply
  • 9th July 2018 at 9:09 pm
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    What an inspirational story! Here’s hoping that Ivy’s amazing story gives hope to other people living with macular degeneration!

    Reply

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