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Beacon holds part two of O.W.L.S. series

September 17, 2013
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Beacon of HOPE O.W.L.S. (older, wiser, laughing souls) held its second seminar "Simple Steps for Better Vision," Thursday. The three-part series highlights health insurance, vision and memory.

Beacon of H.O.P.E. Board of Directors President Elsie Stearns said she is really excited about the series. At the beginning of the year, Beacon officials decided they needed to focus on the seniors of the community.

"I felt there was a need to look into some of these life situations," she said of some of the needs seniors may have. "We bring so many agencies to the island through the United Way, I felt that we were missing that link with the seniors."

Article Photos

Karyl Walter, Outreach Coordinator for Frantz EyeCare, explains the importance of complete comprehensive annual eye exams.


With the help of the Matlacha Hookers Afternoon Delights fund-raiser in April, the Beacon of H.O.P.E. is able to host the series.

"They are helping us achieve these goals," Stearns said of the Hookers.

Julie Talmage, who is on the wellness committee for the Beacon of H.O.P.E., said she and Carol Reagan wanted to help the seniors of the island by helping them take more responsibilities for their health.

This second meeting was about vision and the guest speaker was Karyl Walter, outreach coordinator of Frantz EyeCare.

"This seminar is about the aging eye," Walter said. "By age 65, one in three have some form of vision loss. So it's important to get an annual complete and comprehensive eye exam."

"The most common cause of vision loss in seniors is macular degeneration a condition which usually affects older adults that results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field because of damage to the retina. Family history plays a big part. There is actually a genetic test that is done with saliva to determine if you have the gene.

"The second most common cause of vision loss in seniors is glaucoma," Walter continued. "Early detection is key in the treatment of glaucoma. This is a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball, causing gradual loss of sight. Presbyopia is when the eye loses its ability to change shapes, to focus. This usually occurs at about 40 and you'll need reading glasses.

"The third most common cause of vision loss is cataracts," Walter said. "This is a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision. This is progressive and gets worse over time. Early on it can be corrected with stronger glasses but as it gets worse, surgery becomes the only option. There is no treatment that will cure cataracts. This is the only condition of the four most common causes of vision loss that can be corrected but it can only be corrected with surgery. Your insurance including Medicare will cover this surgery.

"The fourth most common cause of vision loss is diabetic retinopathy. If you know someone with diabetes, it is critical that they have regular complete comprehensive eye exams. Whenever the sugar levels goes too high there can be blood spots in the back of the eye that result in lost vision. A retina specialist can address that if it's caught early."

Walter added, "The most important thing you can do is to have an annual, complete comprehensive eye exam and that you followup with your doctors instructions."

Mary Von Burg, Lions Club president, spoke next about the extensive services the Lions perform for Pine Islanders.

"Our main purpose is to provide free eye care for the people on the island," Von Burg said. "If you know someone that needs help please get my name and number and have them call me. The Lions have a foundation that provides the funding to help people in need of eyeglasses or exams. We also do fund-raisers, we have drop boxes for eye glasses and hearing aids all around the island."

"Once again if you know someone that needs help please give them my name and number and have them call me."

Mary Von Burg can be reached at 239-283-9761 or by email at

The Lions Club meets at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. The church is located at 10360 Stringfellow Road,

St. James City.

Talmage said they did not want to have vision testing for the second series, but rather information about things that would help individuals see better.

Each of the programs in the series includes a free breakfast, gentle stretching, 20 minutes of knowledge presentation, as well as a basket raffle.

Talmage said the breakfast served corresponds with the series. For example, she said they will serve food that will help an individual's vision in September, as well as foods to improve memory in October.

Stearns said the raffle basket is comprised of items from the Beacon of H.O.P.E.

"The whole emphasis is to focus on helping seniors be more responsible and know about the resources available to them," Talmage said.

Those interested in attending the series can call the Beacon of H.O.P.E. at 239-283-5123 to pre-register.

The next meeting is "Memory, I think..." Oct. 4, at 8 a.m., at the Pine Island United Methodist Church, at 5701 Pine Island Road, Bokeelia.



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