At 85 years old, Maxine Turkington believes life can be enjoyed at any age and under most circumstances. You just need to make it happen.
Like so many people, I always took my sight for granted and assumed it would last a lifetime. After a regular eye exam when I was in my 40s, I was told I was one of the “unlucky” ones and that I was going to lose all my central vision. Nothing could be done to avoid it, although it would be a long process.
I wasn’t frightened
Even when I was told about my eye condition, I didn’t fear for my future whatsoever. I adopted a motto: If your life changes, change your life. From that moment I started to plan my life to fit the circumstances and as my sight got gradually worse, I adapted it by forgetting what I couldn’t do, assessing what I could do, and doing it. I discovered skills and interests I had never considered before and was now enjoying.
Never be ashamed of your sight condition
I’ve been in discussions and heard blind and partially sighted people admit they’re ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help because of their eye condition. There is just no need. I walk more than two miles to the shops and take the bus home. I can’t see the number of my bus, so I ask people to tell me, and if I’m unsure where to get off, I ask the bus driver to tell me. To me, it’s nothing to do that. My local supermarket knows me by name and I have a nice chat with staff.
All I can say is to have confidence in yourself; you are not being a nuisance to anyone. Accept what you can and can’t do, but accept help when you need it.
I’ve been working since I was 10
So when I moved to Ohio, America, in the 1970s, I wasn’t going to stop. With my husband we set up a successful nanny and housekeeper agency. I did all the interviewing, marketing and advertising. I redesigned the office, put in special lighting over my desk and application forms were completed with a thick pen and in large print. My husband took care of the correspondence and finances. In 2002, we decided to retire and return to the UK.
…and I still am working
When my husband of 30 years died, it was time to change my life once more. I started a new and equally exciting and interesting life in Cambridge. I took on more voluntary work and I am now involved in local politics. I am a motivational speaker and I try to inspire blind and partially sighted people to enjoy a full life, as I do. I even wrote a cookbook for people with sight loss, which is available at RNIB.
I walk, eat well, clean the house, and ok I love to eat ice cream before I go to bed – coffee is my favourite flavour by the way. I love to write poems, enjoy writing and going to the theatre. I have plenty of friends; all sighted, and have never thought of myself as being disabled, even though I am registered blind.
My advice would be to think about what you want to do and then ask: “Can I do it?” If so, give it a try! Find people who want to do the activity with you and take life into your own hands.
Age ain’t nothing but a number
I have never thought that because I am a certain age I can’t do something. Age is just a number. All my friends are younger than me and it has never been an issue between us.
My life is good
The secret of my ongoing strength is believing in myself and stretching my interests and talents as far as I can. If you think you can do something, you probably can. Be confident in your ability and you too can make your third age your best age. And remember: when your life changes, change your life.