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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Help needed for older deafblind
By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website

Photo of someone finger spelling
Deafblind people sometimes require communications support
Older people who lose both sight and hearing risk becoming isolated unless more support is provided, according to a leading charity.

Sense - the deafblind organisation - has launched a campaign to highlight the issue to care professionals.

The charity estimates that two million people in the UK aged over 60 have dual sensory impairments.

Its campaign - Fill in the Gaps - aims to challenge the view that sight and hearing loss are inevitable with age.

"Unless we take account of dual sensory loss, attempts to plan for an ageing population will fail," said Sense's head of campaigns, Sue Brown.

"Ageist attitudes often mean that sensory loss in old age is seen as an inevitable part of the ageing process."

The charity wants the gap between the support to which people are entitled, and what they actually receive, to be closed.

The campaign - to coincide with Deafblind Awareness Week - is being fronted by actress, Stephanie Beacham whose father became deafblind in his later years.

Photo of an older deafblind lady sharing a joke with a younger women
Making the effort to communicate reduces isolation

"I've seen first hand how developing a dual sensory impairment in old age can be depressing and isolating," she said.

"As Sense's campaign shows, with training in mobility and alternative methods of communication, people can continue to engage in activities they enjoyed in the past and remain independent."

Sense has produced information for health and social care professionals to highlight the needs of older deafblind people.

The charity says that as people become cut off from the world around them there is sometimes an emotional reaction, ranging from grief to anger and frustration.

Its information booklet provides basic advice about how to recognise dual sensory impairment, how to communicate effectively, the types of support required by deafblind people and sources of additional help.

Sense says that as people live longer the incidence of deafblindness will increase.

It stresses that early intervention will often help someone to remain independent for longer and will avoid the use of more expensive services like residential care.

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