Ryan Osentowski (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "Though I don't consider myself as being "old," I am nearing fifty and do fine myself not swaying from some of my ways than I would have at a younger time. But I have a hard time thinking I'd not do what is smart to do if in deed I needed to work out some alternatives in order to go on at the highest level of independence. Is there someone else out there (even Older) who may think and act differently? Why?"
**2. "Well, as I read this latest thought provoker, I was mystified at first but then, an idea came to me. I do not know if I am on the same wavelength as you, but here goes-
I was teaching a college class at Louisiana Tech in early June of this year. I told you all in the last Provoker that I was switching jobs and, in between the old job and the new one, I spent 2 weeks in Ruston LA teaching a class called "introduction to Orientation and Mobility for Educators...wow, sounds a little like Parapetologist babble but it was laced with all of the street smarts and good Nebraska common sense that I could squeeze in. Anyway, I have never taught a college class before. What's more, I did not really have any time to plan as I was, as usual, behind at work and trying desperately to finish everything up on Friday (Which turned into Sunday) so that I could fly to Ruston on Monday. So there I was, completely terrified and wondering why I had ever agreed to do such a thing and why they had ever wanted me in the first place. At the end of the thing, after giving, and grading, 2 quizzes, a term paper, an oral presentation and a final exam, Joanne Wilson, the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind (which also just happens to be in Ruston) asked me to speak at seminar. I talked about the images that we have of ourselves throughout our lives and that, at long last, is where I thought this provoker was going.
I believe that we humans have a remarkable ability to change ourselves, our outlooks, our careers, even our personalities, as we go through our lives. For some of us, our blindness comes in the midst of life and causes many changes. Some of these are good, and perhaps some are not. Hopefully, the longer we experience blindness, the more able we will be to craft an image of ourselves that is everything we want it to be.
I have a friend in New Mexico who is a wonderful example of someone whose image continues to be enhanced with age. When I met her, she had just graduated from the orientation center. She was beginning to emerge from her shell of shyness and shame but she did not often let us see her real self. She was like an old car that has been cleaned up and painted with primer. The rust is gone and you can see that it is going to be a gem, but it is all brown and somber. My friend today is like that same car, with shining new paint, probably in 2 colors, for extra zip! She has worked hard on the transition and continues to do so. There is that wonderful potential in each of us. Those of you who are young, have the energy and enthusiasm to change the world. That energy can do marvelous things in your own live's! Those of you who are seniors have wisdom, patience, and a wealth of experiences to enrich your lives and the lives of those who are fortunate enough to know you. Those are treasures to be graciously shared and gratefully received. So it is with blindness. Hopefully the veterans among us can share some wisdom with those who are still new in the game. On the other hand, sometimes it is the newly blinded person whose creativity solves an age-old nuisance by coming up with a fine new alternative technique from which we all benefit."
Christine Boone (Mechanicsburg, Pensylvania, USA)
From Me: "There are several major points I see to this response. The one I am going to key in on is the one called "potential." In deed, when I speak to anyone or group about blindness, I speak of the human potential, that we are intelligent and adaptive, a combination that can't be beat.
Second thought, did you see how many times response 1. And 2. crossed trails?"
**3. "I guess my thought on this one would be that blindness does not make us that different than everyone else. First off, we can still enjoy the same things with just as much interest. Secondly, I think we all have our assets and need to incorporate them into our lives for the good of all. It is important to think of what we have to offer rather than what our disadvantages are. An older person, for example, has more experience than a younger one. A younger person probably has more energy and sense of adventure than the older person. Any of us can win the race. If we emphasize what we can offer to our communities, our places of employment, our families and society we will be more of an asset to the world and happier with our circumstances."
Have fun with this one. It should result in some interesting discussion. I think the big theme here is that as blind people, we are not so different. We can be hot-rods too."
Nancy Coffman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "I like your big theme: "Any of us can win the race. If we emphasize what we can offer to our communities, our places of employment, our families and society we will be more of an asset to the world and happier with our circumstances." Also as you said it is important to think of what we have to offer rather than what our Disadvantages are. So then to a newly blinded person of any age, they must re-learn what their assets are (may be the same or different, more or less) and to do so is to learn about blindness. This goes for the parents and/or family of the newly born blind child as well as for the people close to a person who has gone blind. We are all in this together. Do seek out a local chapter of the National Federation Of The Blind and try it on for size.
Finally, like Nancy said "We all could be Hot Rods!" Right?"
**4. "I think it would be easier for a younger person to cope with blindness. I'm old and tired. They would have much more to live for."
From Me: "I Robert personally interviewed this lady. She lives in a nursing home where she will do some daily activities for herself like dress, watch TV, but not much else. The staff does all the rest for her. She has macular degeneration and is in reasonably good health for a person in their upper seventies. I used my full repertoire of logic and positiveness to try and motivate her to want to change and live to the fullest of her personal potential. But as you can see, she's stuck. I'll get her to meet others who are doing well, but please give me more in our Provoker on aging to share with her."
**5. "Regarding that elderly woman in the nursing home: I recently read a Kernel book which talked about an older woman who became blind, went on to get her education, and was busily changing the world. Or maybe it was the Braille Monitor. It was in there in the last two years. Maybe you can track it down. It might help."
Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York, USA)
B. "David says the article was in the Braille Monitor a couple of years ago. The woman had been at convention and her convention speech was reproduced in the Monitor. She had gone to the Colorado center, probably paying for it herself, though you could ask Dianne Mc George if the woman actually got the commission to pay her way. That would be a first
From Me: "Thank you Lori. Thoughtful and practical suggestions are always needed and welcome. For us all. And, "get it folks?" She mentioned two other great reading/writing forums, the "Kernel Book" series and the monthly "Braille Monitor, both publications of the National Federation Of The Blind."
**6. "I was so sad to hear of that lady, she should live with Jim and my mom. Anyhoo, I have been thinking about being older and starting over. My friend came from India with all the enthusiasm in the world to a country where he could redefine himself. is this not what we face? A refugee type existence? If we take our" potential" and run with it, can we go as far as a sighted person? Sure, maybe not as neatly, but our gumption should drive us. I will bet she knows gumption when she hears it! Does she read at all? Talking books is a start.
From Me: "is this not what we face? A refugee type existence?" What an interesting parallel; the newly displaced and the newly blinded...How do you out there like this one? And can it be possible that a person can lose the ability to be jump-started by someone else's show of gumption? We'll see, its that by example or peer counseling thing again, right (in 5. And now in 6.)?
B. If you are talking about the reply to the old lady, I don't think age matters at all. Money does and attitude and opportunity and brain mass and plain old guts. What am I lacking?? I would talk much more differently to her ina different circumstance. She needs motivated from where she is, not where I am. That is the tricky part and why self-motivation is the best. Age is not in it at all. I personally fight depression, not due to blindness, it always lived in me, but aggravated by it and my raging hormones. Is this printable??"
From Me: "You answer Pam, here."
**7. "I have read the Hot Rod story and have come to this conclusion. Although new or old all cars need some repair. Some more than others. Even the oldest car can be removed from its place of dormancy and restored to a new life and vibrancy. Even as many times the builder must take their time especially with cars in poor shape, for with time, patience, and love any car can be made to look and run as new."
Rick O'Malley (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "Amen and so goes it with people. Right?"
**8. "Robert, That is a hard question to answer. I have no idea what it would be like to be blind. Being around people like you gives me thought that you don't miss much. I think when you get older ---like I am now---blindness could be more acceptable. It is the accepted that older people start breaking down and blindness would not be as traumatic in older people. I think you were lucky you had the 16 or 17 years you had before the accident. Mary has told me you think being deaf and not being able to communicate is far worse than blindness. Now I never thought about that before---and I don't know if I agree or not. We who have site take so much for granted. I get my emotions from seeing and hearing--. Since you had site---you know what blue color looks like---what if you had been born blind---how do you explain that to someone. Well my response is definitely--when you are older because you have seen and experienced the emotions through seeing. You see through Bonnie and Em's eyes---and you are so damn well adjusted. Look at Cristopher Reeves----tragedy strikes and one minute he is a big strapping fellow and the next second he is unable to move. That--too me---having someone to care for your most personal needs would be the worst tragedy of all. I'm afraid this is not very deep---but just off the top of my head that is how I feel."
Dan Mullis (Bermmingham, Alabama, USA)
From Me: "Here is an answer from someone who is new at disability, non-disabled and is thinking. Practical minded I'd say. Who knows if this person will ever need to handle blindness, but aging...is it so different? Do many of the same rules apply?"
Later: On my statement to Dan about my statement" I'd rather be blind than deaf. Because the person I am needs that easy communication that comes with hearing. Communication is of value to me. So could you say that at times this debate ends up being a value judgement? But let me also say, if I were deaf rather than blind, I'd handle it okay; even deafblindness."
**9. "In your last message you asked what I thought about becoming blind now or at an earlier age. Well that's an easy one. It would be worse for a younger person with a whole life ahead of him. Going out into the streets, finding satisfactory work, finding a wife, raising a family--yeah, that would scare me to death! On the other hand, an older person would not have those worries but would have a lifetime of happy memories to help him over the rough spots. As a matter of fact, blindness strikes many older people. But, in either case, I think most individuals would find a way to cope with it. That's the story of the human race--no matter what the challenges, man has always found a way to get by."
Leonard Mullis (Denver, Colorado, USA)
From Me: "Well, here is one vote for the older person having an easier time of it or was it a less tragic one? What do you say? Is it one or the other or either or neither or both or a mute point?"
**10. "Well, try this on for size and age: In spite of my sixty-eight years of life and fifty-seven years of blindness, I don't think I have much to say about age and blindness. Aging and blindness has become a professionalized subspecialty in the field of blindness work and resists reasonable reflection. I do know this, however: equating older with wisdom is an illusion any more. When each generation did the same as the generation before, the experience of the elderly could be passed on to the successors and have some relevance to their lives. Now, this kind of connection between generations is broken and experience cannot translate into wisdom. Indeed, the wisdom we think we gain in one decade of our life can hardly translate into wisdom for the next. If you remain intellectually active during the earlier years of your life and keep on learning as the world changes, you might have some of the equipment to deal with the new circumstances.
When blindness sets in, you will find that coping absolutely requires that you have your cognitive faculties intact and ready to run, like a well-oiled hotrod. If you have become so locked into a visual orientation to the world that you can't shift gears to a cognitive orientation, you're in deep trouble. "Follow the yellow brick road" or "follow the blue line" or "follow where the arrows point" won't work any more.Anyone who has devoted any thought to the subject can tell you that you have to be prepared to use your reasoning ability, keeping track of where you are and how you are planning to get somewhere and making decisions and solving problems as you go along. In this way, experience can translate into wisdom, but the visual wisdom won't work. Incidentally, our word "wisdom" comes from the same Latin root as "vision". No wonder we have stereotype problems!
So spake Nyman, James Nyman) (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "Isn't this what I wrote about in my thoughts to number 2 response?"
As to being easier to adapt to blindness I find some times being very hard when I got two kids ages five and seven and it is hard to explain what is the matter with my eyes. But like a song said I get knocked down and I get back up and you will nevver keep me down."
yours truly Tim Olmstead (Fremont, Nebraska, USA)
From Ee: "I get knocked down and I get back up and you will nevver keep me down."" Isn't that just one of the best attitudes? What else does it take?"
**12. "I think it would be harder for an older person to be blind." The ten-year-old boy answered my key question about who could better handle blindness, the young or the old? "Why?" I next asked.
"Because we are yong and can grow with it and they're more tired."
"Well, will that be true for you when you get old?" I asked and he told me he'd have to think about it."
Robert L. I interviewed this kid.
**13. "About whether becoming blind when you're young or old: From David--There's no definite answer. There are adjustment problems either way. The attitudes have to be adjusted. Whether you are sighted or blind, you grow up with the attitudes of sighted society."
David Stayer (Merrick, New York, USA)
**14. "I go to an annual hot rod and classic car show in one of the close towns here too. There are cars from all decades and all kinds of cars and conversions. Some are original and some are modified. Some are really nice and we admire them, some need a lot of work yet, but are in one stage or another of being restored to usefulness. That is just like people. Some of us are old, some classic, some in need of repair. We all are at different stages of life. No one can tell us when we are done or what needs to be done because we are the ones who decide when we are what we want to be. We can get ideas from others who are at other stages in their development. That is really helpful. Life is ever learning and never being completely done, whether we are blind or not. We all have something that isn't perfect about us, that needs work on. The most important things, we think, are to go to the "meets", see what can be done, see where we are and learn from those who have been before us. We can also share with others what we have learned and admire the beautiful people around us.
Everyone has something important to contribute to others. Never forget that too."
Rory and Pat Conrad (Dunlop, IOWA, USA)
From Me: "No one can tell us when we are done or what needs to be done because we are the ones who decide when we are what we want to be." WOW!!! Someone else out there what is your read on this statement? Free will? Are people that self-aware? And/or where does this line from an old Beatle song fit in?... "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."
**15. "Where do you get that old stuff? I have been around a while, but I ain't that old. I have noticed that the job situation has sure gone down hill in Nebraska. It reached a high in the late sixties, and early seventies, but sure has gone down hill. There is jobs out there, but as far as I can find out the blind are not getting them. I didn't want to get on the employment situation, but I just had to say something about it, I don't like it. As far as other things I don't see a lot of difference. It still seems like the blind want to be first class citizens, with second class responsibilities. Asking for special cab rides, I mean having a discount because of blindness. It is like having your cake and eating it. Well I had better get out of here. good bye all."
Hank Vetter (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "Heare's a comment from a guy in his seventies. He worked all of his life and is now into computers, among other thins."
**16. "When I was younger my uncle made his living restoring antic cars, and I remember feeling a little sad at the sight of a Hot Rod, thinking it was a shame that this car could have been restored to its original quality and appearance, if the owner had just chosen to make it happen. As I matured I began to realize that some older cars really couldn't be restored, others weren't worth the investment to do so, and in any case there is a certain art that goes into the creation of a hot rod. There is nothing sad about a hot rod, the only old cars to feel sad about are the ones that never made it to a restorer or a hot rodder.
So where is the parallel with blindness for me in this story? Well, I think it is several layers, and much of it has to do with attitude. When people lose something in their lives, especially something to do with their physical being, they naturally seek to have it restored. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it just doesn't. When it doesn't, some people give up, and they become like that old car rusting away in the middle of a field. But there are others that are lucky enough to become a person with the attitude of a hot rodder.
A hot rod is a mixture of original parts, and some new ones as well. sometimes the old parts need to be repaired or modified, and often the new parts take a lot of effort to be made to fit just right, but over time it all starts to come together. The keystone of a hot rod is the engine, and it is usually not based on the original. It is usually bigger, more powerful, and specially built to meet the demands of, well you know what hot rodding is all about! Hot rodding is an expression of a philosophy, and the engine is the attitude that makes it go.
Very few blind people will ever be restored, but a lot of them can become hot rods, if they are willing to take on the philosophy, make a few changes, learn a few new things, and get a new engine."
Jeff Altman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
**17. "When I went blind at age 76 I thought the world was over, it was time to die. Then I met a 84 year old, a forty-nine year old, a twenty-three year old and a nine year old who were all were doing well with blindness and my mind and sole said stop! If they were able to do it, then why not me!?! What did they have that I didn't? Logic told me I needed to look into it.
What I found was they all had been exposed to and took advantage of rehabilitation and counseling. They learned alternatives, some that you would think only a totally blind person would need; two of them could still see to do some things. Meeting these people and being encouraged to visit, look, listen and above all try, made the difference in my life. My parents lived to be ninety-five and ninety-seven and I plan to do so and live in good style and most certainly have my independence.
I'll note here, I have also met several other older blind and found them to be stuck in negative frames of mind. I am trying to help them to over come their ignorance and dilemma. I am happy to have been fortunate to have not fallen into their mists when I first went blind. I guess this is a case of "who you know," but also "what you know."
I Robert L. interviewed this person and wrote up their statement.
**18. "Blindness if uncontrolled is devastating. But if you work with it, no matter your age you can control it. As for your age, each stage in life has its pluses and minuses. It's a toss-up if it is harder at one point or another. You need to be strong at all stages. You always have to play with the hand you are dealt."
Marvin Jirsa (I'm 82)
Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "Not to just be sitting here writing the obvious, like "Great, I agree," type of thing. Yet wasn't there a lot of living proof presented thus far and through out this list of responses to blindness across the age groups that no matter the age we can successfully live with blindness. Granted, we had a few writers who thought the other group may have an easier time of it, but we had examples of this from both sides of the fence. There again, clearly up to this point the majority of this sampling felt "all persons" could successfully adjust to blindness. Furthermore, wasn't it refreshing to see how many felt that one group could and would help the other!"
Jake Joehl firstname.lastname@example.org