Silver BELLS

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) proudly announces the launch of its Silver BELLS program to help blind seniors achieve new heights of independence. The program will offer thorough and individualized lessons and activities, emphasizing national expertise and local community building. With a blend of qualified staff, accessible lessons, interactive activities, and proven goal setting, the NFBV team is confident in its ability to deliver exceptional programming to blind seniors and their families.

Background

A nationwide study by the National Academies of Science found people who are 50 years of age or older are more likely to experience many of the risk factors that can cause or exacerbate social isolation or loneliness. In fact, 25% of the target population exhibited these symptoms before the pandemic. It is our belief this percentage has increased because of the pandemic and the problem is further exacerbated by older adults who recently experienced sight loss.

Though an evolution in science and medicine has made it possible to increase life expectancy, the challenges associated with aging have not changed.

First, seniors deal with ageism and loss of a sense of purpose. Stereotypes of elderly people result in isolation and marginalization in many communities.

Second, employment and retirement have not kept pace with longer life expectancies, resulting in financial insecurity. Seniors find it more difficult to independently monitor essential transactions, and they are key targets for fraud and predatory scams.

Finally, seniors have a more difficult time with everyday tasks. Mobility and dexterity decline with age, and often the responsibility of caring for oneself comes at the cost of minimizing personal interests and social opportunities.

These and other challenges can sometimes be met by loved ones, but a strain is inevitable when the family caregiver must balance this role against work and other family responsibilities.

Seniors’ difficulties in performing everyday tasks are compounded when blindness becomes a factor. Outdated misconceptions of blindness and its limitations further inhibit a senior’s ability to lead an independent and fulfilling life. The feeling of despair is often perpetuated by the individual’s own ideas of what a blind individual can accomplish, and the perception is reinforced by families with little to no education on nonvisual techniques.

Our Response

The NFBV is ready and equipped to offer a program benefiting up to 60 blind and low vision senior citizens over the age of 55 by way of empowerment training built upon the BELL- Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning® program. This time-tested curriculum, originally designed for younger participants, has been reconfigured to meet the needs of senior participants.

This initiative, hosted in strategically chosen locations in Virginia, will prepare blind and low-vision seniors to take control of their personal and professional lives through direct and individualized attention based on physical ability, personal skills, and goals.

Following a kickoff event at the organization’s 2021 state convention, the NFBV will offer three weekend-long sessions of Silver BELL, where seniors will receive hands-on instruction. At each weekend retreat, trained instructors will support the teaching of critical nonvisual techniques as well as provide opportunities for seniors to participate in socially engaging projects to practice their newly acquired skills.

General focus areas will include:

  • No-and-low vision daily living skills including health and medicine management;
  • Basic finance;
  • Orientation and mobility techniques;
  • Braille discovery and practice;
  • Social interaction and engagement;
  • Self-esteem and confidence building;
  • Self-advocacy and connection to local services on aging; and
  • Community resources, to include: Washington Ear, NLS, Bookshare, and Newsline, among others.

Through interactive activities, seniors will begin to cultivate the confidence and skills necessary for a self-reliant and fulfilling life. The skills they learn in the sessions will serve them as they transition from professional responsibilities into retirement. We recognize that this weekend long immersion also serves to connect seniors with positive blind role models within their community who will continue the coaching and mentoring on an ongoing basis.

Thank You!

We extend a heartfelt thank you to the Virginia Board for the Blind and Visually Impaired for their financial support of this initiative. Their endorsement was a critical first step in meeting the needs of this underserved community, and we are grateful for their partnership in this shared mission.

For Further Details

Details on how to register for our kickoff event at the state convention and sign up for one of our interactive weekends will be published soon.

In the meantime, if you have questions about the program, or wish to learn how to make an investment, please contact:

Sandy Halverson, Program Coordinator
Phone: (703) 400-6890
Email: sjh300@outlook.com