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A New Vision – “A Vision Enhanced Apartment” in Colorado Springs

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The “A Vision Enhanced Apartment” mentioned in this article is located at The Inn at Garden Plaza in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Learn more about their services through their websites.
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This morning, August 30th, witnessed the ribbon cutting that introduced the very first “Vision Enhancement Apartment” developed by The Inn at Garden Plaza, Colorado Springs. This “low vision” apartment, designed mostly with a view to accommodating those with macular degeneration, is the brainchild of Jan Jones, the Inn’s Senior Sales Director. The actual research and implementation involved the collaboration of Nan Drobnick of Peak Vista’s Second Sight program and the Inn’s environmental and plant operations team headed by Sophia Bower.

The day began with the interview of celebrity resident, Jeanne Long, the hostess of the KCMN Radio senior, variety program, “Grownup on the Go”. Jeanne’s enthusiasm for this prototype springs from her own practical need to get around in a world where the lights are only getting lower. “Fear is a terrible part of losing your vision.” This comes from one who, in addition to her radio program, also facilitates the local Low Vision Support Group.

As macular degeneration, an age-related disease, diminishes sharp, central vision, successful counter-strategies have to center on creating contrast in one’s living environment. Upon entering the enhanced apartment, the visitor is first struck by a tasteful “disparity”: ordinarily, you’d expect switch plates, baseboards, molding, and doorframes to match adjoining features so as to blend seamlessly. Not here. Boundaries are everything. All but one wall in every room is cream-colored with one wall, in each, painted dark green for orientation. All fixtures are colored to contrast with the wall on which they’re affixed.

The sensory aids are not merely confined to sight, either: Countertops have distinguishing textures and tactile bump dots are placed strategically by the stovetop controls’ off positions. Both the microwave and apartment thermostat “speak” in the sense that they provide both audible prompts and responses to finger-touch input.

And what low vision environment would be complete without oversized gadgetry? Among other things, the apartment comes equipped with a giant wall clock, TV controls sporting one inch buttons and a bedroom telephone with keys the size of large Post-It™ pads. The entire setting is illuminated by energy-efficient 23 watt bulbs that effectively radiate 100 watts.

About the time the visitor gets used to the idea that the utility of the contrasting décor possesses an aesthetic all of its own, the question begs, “Does it really work?” It turns out that Inn’s residents “field-tested” the quarters and heartily approved.

Who hasn’t been thrilled to imagine (or actually behold) a child’s delight upon seeing made-to-order miniature furniture or utensils? It’s no different with seniors who have had to make to do with small print, low contrast and, in general, a life palette whose colors have run together. Or, instead of made do some have given up, altogether. So it’s really no cliché to say that for the low-vision sufferer this Vision Enhancement Apartment provides a new lease on life. A renewed “sense of control” to hear Jeanne Long tell it.

While time didn’t allow us to see everything, a clever, little detail made for a cute close to the morning. In the kitchen, Ms. Bower produced two, contrasting, plastic cutting boards. Reporters’ quizzical looks were met by the profound pronouncement: “Black for onions and white for tomatoes.”

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