Categorized | Healthy Lifestyle

Seniors with macular degeneration can read again with technology

By Eliza J. Anderson

Ella M. has surrounded herself with books her entire life. A graduate of Hunter College in 1938, she went on to work as an editor, writer, and book designer, a vocation she didn’t fully let go of until she was eighty years old. Then, like millions of older Americans, macular degeneration began taking her eyesight, eventually leaving her unable to read.

Macular degeneration is damage to or breakdown of the macula of the eye. The macula is a small area at the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly. Macular degeneration makes close work like threading a needle or reading a book, difficult or impossible. When the macula doesn’t function correctly, we experience blurriness or darkness in the center of our vision.

There are two forms of macular degeneration and medical treatment is available for some people. However, there is no treatment that will stop the progression of the disease.

It was depressing, Ella admits. “I couldn’t do anything! I was very, very down. My vision was getting worse, but to not be able to read, that was the killer.” Ella needed to explore other options in order to be able to continue her passion for books.

Eye Pal SOLO Instant Reader

There are any number of devices on the market to aid with age-related macular degeneration. Most of them are video readers, magnifiers, or digital book players. But none seemed to be a good fit for Ella.

Three months ago the facility where Ella and her husband live organized a day for residents to learn about and try out some of the latest assistive technology for low vision. A staff member told Ella about a new standalone reader. She heard it was simple to use, required no computer or computer skills, and could read printed text on everything from books and junk mail to a frozen TV dinner.

The portable device has everything Ella needed. Place some text under the camera, a picture is taken, and the device starts reading. Wave your hand (or remove the text) and the device stops reading. Wave your hand again, and it will start where you left off.  For Ella this was helpful because it has been years since she’d used a computer, and because the reader fits neatly on her desk.

“It doesn’t sound like a robot. And it has saved my life! Now I can read what I wrote.”

At 91 Ella says, “Now, every day, I find another way I can use it. And, really it’s the little things that matter the most, like reading phone numbers. It’s not so much about books. Yesterday I read the details of our cable contract. So it goes from the big to the small.”

According to Ella,  “I have had to give up a lot of things, both physically and mentally, and this brings me back to really living.”

Eye-Pal SOLO is made in Acton Massachusetts by ABiSee, Inc.  For a free in-home trial or to the hear Eye Pal SOLO read out loud to you over the phone please call Anna at 800-681-5909.  Visit

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