Jessica Rawn
Foundation Relations
Telephone # (519) 742-3536
Charitable # 119219459 RR0003

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The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has a mission to ensure all Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunity to fully participate in life. With your help, we will change what it is to be blind today and level the playing field for people who are blind or partially sighted.

Program Story

Seniors with Vision Loss – Overcoming Isolation through Peer Support and Vision Mates 

The CNIB Peer Support and Vision Mate program provides those with sight loss an immediate social and practical support. This combats the isolation so often associated with losing our ability to see. We all have dreams for our retirement years. Perhaps plans for a hobby, or travelling somewhere new. Imagine how thoughts of your future may change if you are told "you are going blind." For many seniors, this will be the case. Eye conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy are significantly higher among seniors an can bring significant sight loss or blindness. For many seniors diagnosed with vision loss, what will retirement bring? People living with blindness or partial sight experience alarming risks:
  • Three times as much clinical depression (as someone with full sight)
  • Twice as much social dependence and low income
  • Greater risk of medication errors
  • Twice the risk of falls
  • Premature admission to nursing homes, 3 years earlier, on average
This project empowers those with vision loss to:
  • Be more self-sufficient,
  • Become healthier (both mentally and physically),
  • Build a higher quality of life, and
  • Re-integrate in to the greater community.
Vision Mates: Specialized volunteers are recruited and matched with someone with vision loss for (typically) weekly visits in the home. The visit could include assisting in the paperwork of paying bills, reading aloud, getting exercise/walking outdoors safely, and reading labels at the grocery store. The emotional boost that clients receive by having a Vision Mate is exceptional. Currently, there are 15 active Vision Mate matches in Waterloo, and another 5 on the waiting list. Peer Support: A small group (7-20 people) for about 2 hours a week, over 6 or 8 weeks, for a structured curriculum led by a volunteer facilitator who also has vision loss. They cover the emotional side-effects and practical tips and strategies for staying healthy, connected and self-sufficient. The supportive environment allows them to build relationships with others, to work through the challenges and realities of their own eye condition, and refocus with positivity on the future.

Donation Impact

One hour a week of your time and talent can increase the quality of life for a senior with sight loss (by providing a social visit, and some assistance with small tasks). A financial donation can help CNIB raise awareness and have the resources to recruit and train more volunteers to be matched with more seniors. It can help us offer peer support sessions more often, and decrease transportation barriers to participation. A gift of $1,000 would help provide one Vision Mate match for one local senior.

Giving Opportunity

A donation towards this program will increase the chance that a Waterloo Region or Wellington County senior with sight loss will be matched with a Vision Mate volunteer, or be able to take a Peer Support program. Your gift could cover the costs of volunteer recruitment, screening, training and recognition. It may also be used to obliterate transportation or emotional barriers keeping more seniors from participating.