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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guide Dogs And Aging

By Owen Jones

Aging has its advantages, like having more experience, having family and often having fewer financial concerns, but it also brings other problems with it as well, normally health problems. One of the health problems that older people worry about is their eyesight.

Most people like to be independent, but blindness causes you to be dependent, particularly if you go blind whilst you are older. At least whilst you are younger, you have a long time to learn how to deal with it.

There are several ways that you can lose your sight while you become older but one that effects 10% of those over 65 and 30% of those over 75 years is macular degeneration. It is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration, ARMD or just AMD because it tends to affect those people who are over 50 years of age.

However, macular degeneration only affects the centre 2.1% of your field of vision, so it is very rare for ARMD to be the cause of total blindness. The problem is that that 2.1%, centre field of vision is extremely important for recognizing individuals and for reading.

So what can you do about it, if you get ARMD? One choice would be to buy a guide dog, a 'blind dog', as they say in the UK or a 'seeing eye dog' as they say in America. A guide dog will help prevent you from bumping into things, which you might well do if you lose your central field of vision.

Most registered blind individuals are not totally blind. Some are worse off than others but sufferers of ARMD normally retain 97.9% of their field of vision, which is the peripheral vision. A guide dog would cover the remainder for you.

Guide dogs are taught as puppies so they will stay with their blind friends for seven or eight years or more This allows the dog and the owner to build up a wonderful relationship, as all people do with their dogs. However, the rapport of a blind person with a guide dog though is extra-special. The dog knows that it is being depended upon for its master' safety.

If you make a decision to go down the road of getting a guide dog, the best place to begin is your national association for the blind, the address of which you can find either at your physician's, in Yellow Pages or on the Internet. Some countries' organizations will charge you for providing a guide dog and others will subsidize your acquiring a guide dog and its training.

It would be a good idea to arrange a guide dog as soon as you are diagnosed with a disease that threatens your eyesight because that will give you more time to get to know and select a puppy as your future companion.

If you are lucky and your physician saves your eyesight, you have lost nothing and you have acquired a wonderful, intelligent friend, but if the worst comes to the worst, you will have an invaluable, seeing, protective, wonderful, intelligent friend. You cannot lose.

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