The Braille Institute of Santa Barbara, which has served people with vision impairment for years, is opening its doors to the community this spring. Its community education series, Active Aging with Low Vision, hopes to reach anyone who is vision impaired, as well as their friends and family who might want to help. The series kicked off Tuesday, March 8, with a class focused on adapted cooking techniques and nutrition for people with low vision, including a talk on nutrition by best-selling author Dr. John La Puma and a live cooking demonstration.
“I think the main point is that some foods can help improve low vision and the loss of vision, and some foods can hasten it,” said La Puma, who addressed the four leading causes of vision loss — cataracts, glaucoma, age, and diabetes — and how different foods can help improve each illness. “Glaucoma, for example … the eyes start deteriorating but in one study, just two or three servings of vegetables like kale and collard greens cuts the risk in half,” he noted. “… [W]hole citrus also seems to prevent glaucoma progression … there’s something about whole food that can be very therapeutic.”
Lynn Dubinsky, certified health and wellness coach and Braille Institute Aging in Place and Education manager, offered another aspect of cooking with low vision: mindfulness. She describes mindfulness as “paying more attention to your different senses and being more comfortable.” “Most of our population is seniors. There’s a big emphasis right now on aging in place,” she said. Michael Lazarovits, director of the Braille Institute at Santa Barbara, echoes her sentiment, saying, “Many times we have caregivers who want to put a bubble around them … they restrict what they can do and how they do it,” he says, “when the fact is, people who are blind and visually impaired can lead very productive lives. They just have to learn how to do things a little differently.”
The seminar, which was held in the institute’s newly remodeled kitchen, was made possible by a generous donation from the Elaine F. Stepanek Foundation, according to Lazarovits. The Braille Institute Santa Barbara provides library services, free counseling, and other adaptive technology services, entirely run by private donations. The series is open to the public, said Dubinsky, “and though most of our services are for our students … we hope to cast a wider net, and spread information.”
The next Active Aging with Low Vision class will focus on technology and takes place Tuesday, April 5, 3-5 p.m., at the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara, 2031 De la Vina Street. Visit brailleinstitute.org/santabarbara or call 1 (800) BRAILLE (272-4553).