Activities for the Visually-Impaired

People who struggle with their eyesight can often be anxious about participating in activities. Robyn Taylor suggests some activity ideas that anyone with a visual impairment can still enjoy and get meaning and pleasure from…

Many years ago, I attended a Vision & Sound Deprivation Awareness Course which was a great insight into how people feel when deaf and blind. They placed glasses on you which represented what you could see with conditions such as tunnel vision or cataracts. It made everything feel strange, from walking to reaching out to pick something up. I realised that you really must rely on the people around you for support.

Activities that focus on words and sounds, as well as simple sensory crafting tasks, can really benefit those people with a visual impairment. Here are some activity ideas for you to try in your care homes.

Talking Newspaper: This is a spoken version of your local newspaper, which you can usually access via a local blindness charity or society in your area. You could even make your own with your care home’s newsletter, or a few articles from the Daily Sparkle. Find out more about talking newspapers here.

Storytime: Read a story, short story or poem together with a group of residents and discuss it afterwards. Make extra effort to talk about descriptions of things – clothing, colours, settings, etc.

Arts and Crafts: Some people may feel anxious about doing crafts, but art therapy is a good tool for everyone because it focuses on touch. For example, painting on large paper or finger painting can be really therapeutic – the feeling of the paint, the crackle of the paper, etc. You could also try pottery, papier-mache or collages using fabrics, textured paper and ribbons. Listening to music while painting is also very therapeutic.

Mindfulness Outside: Being outdoors in the fresh air and focusing on a person’s other senses is a great activity for calming and soothing anxiety, or just to relax and share a cup of tea in the fresh air. Work together to list the things a resident can hear, smell, taste and touch, while having a chat or even doing some simple gardening. It’s easy for someone to feel through the soil to plant a seed or a bulb.

Outings: Keep that focus on sensory things when you’re doing other activities. A trip to the shops could involve feeling the texture of different fabrics, while a matinee at the theatre could be about listening to music. Pub lunches can focus on taste, garden centres on smell, and so on.

Get Fit: Chair-based exercise is a great mood booster and will feel manageable for anyone who struggles to see. Ensure you explain the instructions clearly, and guide the person with touch for demonstrations if needed.

Listen Together: Any musical activities will work well, from enjoying music in the quiet of someone’s own room, to a musical performance in a communal lounge. Singalongs to well-known songs is a great mood booster and can be lovely and nostalgic. Make sure any entertainers are aware of any visually-impaired residents, so they can make an extra effort to sit with them or hold their hands.

Pet Therapy: This is a great activity and can be very soothing. Find out what the person’s favourite animals are, and whether they had pets of their own. Get them to focus on the senses again – sound, touch and smell – and allow them to spend plenty of time with the animals.

Social Groups: Start a social group with people who have similar interests. This will help to build friendships within the home. Are there any specialist groups in the community which you can attend?

Games & Quizzes: You can purchase tactile dominoes, Monopoly, braille Scrabble, specialist Uno, and use the Daily Sparkle quizzes to do quiz questions.

Cooking Together: Cooking will have been a big part of many of your residents’ lives, and tasting and baking together are good activities to explore. Supported one-to-one, someone could bake scones, cake or brownies, which they’ll especially enjoy tasting afterwards!

TOP TIP: Before planning any activities for sight-impaired residents, it is probably best to read their care plan so you can assess the severity of their condition. Speak to the person to understand what visuals they can or cannot see. This will help you to help them with activities.

Also, remember that many people may be able to see light or shapes. Simple things such as sitting them next to a window may amplify any shadows around them, which can help with orientation.

Just as with any disability or impairment, we need to help those who struggle to achieve the goals they want to achieve to live a normal life. Websites of charities such as The Blind Society and RNIB have advice and tools you can buy to support your residents in their daily life.