Confident Living Program for Senior Adults Experiencing Vision and Hearing Loss

By Berry, Paige; Kelley-Bock, Mia et al. | Care Management Journals, April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Confident Living Program for Senior Adults Experiencing Vision and Hearing Loss


Berry, Paige, Kelley-Bock, Mia, Reid, Christine, Care Management Journals


Many people experience both vision and hearing losses as they age. The Confident Living Program was developed by Helen Keller National Center to address the unique psychosocial and educational needs of older adults living with dual-sensory impairments.

Keywords: deaf; blind; aging; psychosocial rehabilitation; hearing impairment; vision impairment

Responding to a need to provide services to senior adults (age 55 and better) with combined vision and hearing loss, the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults in Sands Point, New York (HKNC), developed the Confident Living Program for Senior Adults (CLP). This two-week residential training program revolves around a support group model which includes an introduction to basic skills in communication, independent living, and resource sharing, while learning how to cope with the social and emotional issues unique to individuals with this dual sensory loss. The CLP offers a unique opportunity for seniors to connect with their peers who are also experiencing combined vision and hearing loss. The emphasis in this program is on providing an environment in which senior adults with hearing and vision loss can attach to a new community, and in doing so, reattach to their home community with renewed skills and confidence.

A unique feature of this program is the relationship between the Helen Keller National Center and the Departments of Rehabilitation Counseling and Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. The University offers a 3-credit semester-long course on Deaf-Blind and Aging Studies. Students enrolled in this course have the opportunity to go to HKNC for the 2-week program and obtain practical hands-on experience working with senior adults.

NEED

Over the past few years, the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) has seen an increase in the number of senior adults, age 55 and better, requesting services as a result of their combined loss of vision and hearing. Senior adults, family members, and caregivers, as well as service providers, were seeking ideas and strategies to help seniors cope with the life changes they experience as they face these new challenges. The aging process, and resulting social and emotional challenges, often results in depression, as senior's experience a lack of competence in activities they previously took for granted. Often, they must give up these activities and see themselves as dependent, with nothing more to contribute to society and their community. They are grieving the loss of the dream of the "golden years" that they expected.

Berry, Mascia, and Steinman (2004) reported a 2002 study published by Lighthouse International showing that one in five people over the age of 70 (21%) experience dual sensory losses. Sansing (2006) reported in his analysis of the National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS-D) 1994-1995 that there are 1.134 million individuals age 55 and older in the U.S. with combined loss of vision and hearing. It is projected that in the year 2010, this number will rise to 1.214 million. Sansing (2006) also analyzed 2004 statistics from the Federal Title VII, Chapter 2 program, "Independent Living for Older Blind." That program served a total of 64,916 individuals nationwide. Of that number, 12,173 reported a hearing loss, representing (22%) of the total number of older blind people served. It was also noted that service providers of this program said that they believe this number is an underestimate.

PURPOSE

To address the unique needs of individuals experiencing combined loss of vision and hearing, the Helen Keller National Center developed a two-week residential Confident Living Program for Senior Adults (CLP). Senior adults from across the country come to the national training center on Long Island, New York and are introduced to problem-solving strategies and skills necessary to cope with the emotional and logistical challenges of living with a dual sensory loss. …

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