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Visually impaired senior citizens treated to picnic

August 21, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

Gwen Zimmerman is using the time when she can see to prepare for the time when she cannot.

Zimmerman, 87, said she lost sight in her right eye about three years ago, and it's only a matter of time until her left eye follows suit.

"That's what the doctors tell me," Zimmerman said. "I'm not totally blind, but I will be in a few years."

Zimmerman was one of about 15 senior citizens with vision problems who gathered Friday for a picnic at Pangborn Park in Hagerstown. The event was hosted by Blind Industries & Services of Maryland, an organization that uses state grant money to help visually impaired seniors.

Zimmerman said the group is helping her to learn Braille, walk with a cane and meet new friends.

"We're like a small family," Zimmerman said. "We help each other."

Roger Williamson, 60, said he was born blind. He uses his personal experiences to serve as a rehabilitation specialist with the group.

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The organization, which is based in Cumberland, Md., meets Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown.

"Our goal is not only to get folks together and to have them socialize and have fun, but to share their experiences and offer solutions to problems," Williamson said. "It's to introduce them to services and products that are available to blind people."

Williamson said participants in the group are offered classes that teach Braille and computer skills.

The program also provides information about products, watches and glucose meters that are made specifically for people with visual impairments.

"There's just a ton of different stuff that's out there," Williamson said. "We want people to know that blindness is something you can overcome with the proper training. We want to help people maintain their independence and self-worth."

Jim German, 80, said he started having vision problems almost 50 years ago.

"The doctors told me I would never completely lose my sight, but I did," said German, who has been involved with Blind Industries & Services of Maryland for a few years. "I have learned to use computers in this group. They have been very helpful."

German said he never was deterred by his vision problems.

He said he learned Braille and uses it to help prepare lesson plans for Sunday school, which he teaches at Holy Church of the Trinity on Oak Ridge Drive.

"I try not to let (blindness) slow me down," German said. "I have more physical problems slowing me down than my eyesight. I think limitations are set by the individual."

For more information

For more information about Blind Industries & Services of Maryland, call 1-888-267-4111.

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