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‘I lost my sight in my 70s but I’m still living a full life at 98’

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A 98-year old East London woman is on a mission to raise awareness around sight loss and to highlight the importance of having someone to talk to. Barbara Hogg, who proudly calls herself a Cockney, is still going strong at 98 and has no plans of slowing down. Born in the East End then later moving to Hounslow, Barbara worked as a music teacher before retiring in the 1980s. She even taught during the war which she described as an “interesting time”.

She told MyLondon : “I taught in a variety of schools all around London. After the war, I worked in open-air schools to help students who had tuberculosis or were close contacts. The class would have three sides of the room open. I did that for around three years and it was an interesting time. I was then able to bring music to Milton Keynes and I taught there till the 1980s. Sadly, I was made redundant around that time. I then moved back to London taking a job at the Polytechnic of North London which later became The University of North London.”

READ MORE: The incredible 100-year-old gran still working 4 hours a week for free at a London hospital

Barbara was a music teacher through the war and the following years

In 1994, Barbara’s eyesight in one of her eyes started to change. She wasn’t sure what was happening but all of a sudden her life was changing. She was in her 70s at the time so she took herself to the hospital to get checked out. She was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a condition that can affect anybody of any age but usually affects people in their 50s and 60s according to the NHS website.

Barbara didn’t find adjusting to one good eye too hard. She said: “Only having one good eye really only affected my driving. I sadly had to give that up but apart from that, it wasn’t that bad. The worst thing was at that time, people didn’t really know what macular degeneration was. Nobody really knew about it.”

When her eyesight started to go, Barba was lucky to find the Macular Society who helped her navigate her new way of life

When her eyesight started to go, Barba was lucky to find the Macular Society who helped her navigate her new way of life

When she turned 83, Barbara’s life as she knew it changed. Her second eye started to degenerate so now Barbara was trying to figure out this new way of living.

She said: “I didn’t have any relatives left to look after me. I really didn’t know what to do. I had no idea how I was going to manage going forward. I started blaming myself and my choices – I blamed smoking when I was a student, I got angry and kept blaming other people until I got quite depressed. I simply couldn’t see a way forward.

Barbara Hogg poses with a photograph of herself during a family holiday at the seaside in Kent.

Barbara Hogg poses with a photograph of herself during a family holiday at the seaside in Kent

“But thank goodness for the Macular Society. I went to an annual conference and I was asked to speak about my condition. This gave me a chance to train to be a speaker but I was already confident thanks to my time as a teacher. I was able to turn my eyesight into a constructive way of living.”

Around the early 2000s, after a meeting with a consultant, he recommended Barbara join the Macular Society. It is a national charity for those suffering sight loss and a way for people to get any new information or developments. Barbara was invited to conferences to speak about her experience with sight loss, how she managed and did workshops with medical students. She was able to turn something that she saw as a negative into a positive.

As well as speaking at events, Barbara became a befriender. A befriender is someone within the society who shares the same experience as you and you are able to talk to them about anything. The Macular Society’s befriending service is where people, often with their own experience of sight loss, offer their spare time to speak to others in need over the phone. These conversations have proved vital for those suffering.

When her eyesight started to go, Barba was lucky to find the Macular Society who helped her navigate her new way of life

When her eyesight started to go, Barba was lucky to find the Macular Society who helped her navigate her new way of life

Barbara added: “It was some years ago I became a befriender and I still speak to one lady who was the first person I was paired with. She lives alone and I try to help her as best I can. It’s really important finding someone in the same situation as you, someone you know is going through the same things as you.

“I’ve been told it has been a tremendous help for their confidence. If it didn’t exist it would be very depressing for so many people. I know consultants are interested more in the physical side of macular disease but not enough thought goes into the emotional and physiological stress that macular disease causes people.”

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I’m Ayokunle (Ayo to most) and I’m a Community Reporter at MyLondon covering community stories around London and positive human stories. I started in October 2021 and since then I’ve covered a range of topics spanning all of London.

Three stories in the last month that I’m particularly proud of are:

I was born and raised in Hackney, East London and I came back from living in Sydney, Australia in 2020 which was a positive but stressful experience (Due to Covid). I do love London but as you can see, I needed to get out after being here for so long and the grey skies.

You can contact me at [email protected]

That is why Barbara wants people to volunteer to be a befriender and help others. In London, it is estimated 208,000 people are living with sight loss and they sometimes may feel feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“My body may be frail but my brain is still okay. I feel it’s really beneficial to have someone who can sympathise with you”.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer befriender you can contact the Macular Society on 0300 3030 111.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/east-london-news/i-lost-sight-70s-im-22937467