Participants proved to benefit from a group rehabilitation programme aimed at improving participation of visually impaired elderly. The ‘VIPP’ (Visually Impaired elderly Persons Participating; Actief Meedoen) programme that human movement scientist Manna Alma developed in collaboration with Koninklijke Visio (Royal Dutch Visio, Centre of Expertise for blind and partially sighted people) trains participants in practical and problem-solving skills and physical fitness. The first evaluation shows that they benefit from the programme. Alma will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen for her research on 7 March 2012.
Visually impaired elderly experience restrictions in their social participation, such as joining in leisure activities and doing household tasks. Loneliness is a problem for 50% of this group, as opposed to 29% of people of the same age, gender and partner status who have normal eyesight. The degree of loneliness is also relatively higher for the visually impaired elderly.
The ‘VIPP’ rehab programme trains participants in practical skills such as getting around on foot or by using public transport and doing shopping. Another main focus is on problem-solving skills such as dealing with lack of understanding in their environment, learning to ask for help and explaining the consequences of visual impairment to others. In addition, the participants work on individual and group goals and receive information. A first evaluation study among 29 participants has shown that positive effects can be found regarding subjective aspects of participation, such as the restrictionsexperienced, satisfaction and autonomy. The ‘VIPP’ programme also turned out to improve participants’ physical fitness.
Participation has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘involvement in life situations’, which includes housework, maintaining social contacts and relationships, work, volunteer work and social activities such as leisure activities. The majority of the visually impaired elderly do engage in such participation to some degree, but 94% of the 173 participants in the study experience restrictions in one or more of these fields. The visually impaired elderly were significantly less engaged in doing housework and participating in leisure activities than those with good eyesight.
Seventy-nine percent of the visually impaired in the Netherlands are over 65. An important cause of loss of vision is retinal aging, known as macular degeneration. People with less than 50% vision, or a visual field angle smaller than 30° qualify for specific rehabilitation.
Manna Alma (Coevorden, 1982) studied Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen. She conducted her PhD research at the UMCG’s department of Social Medicine and in collaboration with Koninklijke Visio. The study was partially funded by ZonMw-Stichting InZicht. Her thesis is entitled ‘Participation of the visually impaired elderly: determinants and intervention’. She continues to work as a researcher at the department of Social Medicine of the UMCG.
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