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Helping old eyes in a fine-print world

Your sight is not gone -- not even close -- but you're finding it harder than ever to read the tiny print in your checkbook register.

Or the numbers on the bathroom scale, your wristwatch, or the bedside clock. Take comfort: You're not alone.

Lots of people in Western New York, as they grow older, are finding themselves dealing not with major problems with their eyesight but with plenty of pesky little annoyances that come with age.

But you don't need to resign yourself to avoiding certain daily activities because they tax your vision.

One local expert on age-related vision problems counseled that there are products and devices available that can make day-to-day life easier for those with aging eyes.

"Vision aids are not just for the legally blind," said Ron Maier, who runs the Olmsted Center for Sight at 1170 Main St. "It's just, could you use some things to make life easier? It's about quality of life."

Here's a sampling of what's out there to help you -- or the aging loved one in your life -- see better when it comes to basic life skills:

*Phones with large-button touch pads, especially those with black-white color contrasts on the keys, not muted tones that are hard to see.

*Large-size kitchen timers, clocks, thermometers and other gadgets that help people who love to cook.

*Checkbook "frames" that help people with vision challenges write out their checks neatly and legibly, and large-scale check registers, to allow for tracking checks in an easier-to-use format.

*"Talking" wristwatches, clocks -- even bathroom scales -- that mean users can get the time or other necessary information without having to see small numbers.

*Oversized calendars, large-print playing cards and specialized bingo cards.

These sorts of aids are available and don't cost a lot, said Linda Wiecek, a staff member at the Olmsted Center.

In Buffalo, one place to look or call is the Olmsted Center's office on Main Street, where many of these sorts of everyday aids are available for inspection and purchase.

"The very common comment is, 'I wish I had known about this sooner,' " said Wiecek.

Maier, president of the Buffalo center, said that younger people, whose eyesight might be fine, should think about vision aids for older parents and family members who might be struggling to see. Often these older relatives appreciate guidance to an item that can help them better manage daily tasks, he said.

Maier said he learned that lesson from personal experience, when he gave his father a large-scale phone as a gift.

"He's not blind, but it helps him. Then I got him something to help him read the paper better," said Maier. "People are living longer. As they're aging, they're having problems ... if they're having trouble seeing, maybe we can help."

To reach the Olmsted Center for Sight with questions and for more information, call 888-4500.


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