Blindness and visual impairment are significant health concerns, especially in countries with limited resources and low to moderate income levels. Healthcare accessibility is one of the main contributors to people not having their eyesight tested.

That is where VisionBox hopes to close the gap. VisionBox is a non-profit organisation that provides affordable eye care for those who cannot afford mainstream optometrists.

VisionBox is also who 79-year-old Magdelina Filander turned to when she realised her sight was deteriorating at a rapid pace, and she could no longer ignore her condition.

Magdelina tells how she was a housewife for most of her adult life. She shared how she prided herself on keeping her house in tip-top shape. However, since her eyesight worsened, she could no longer perform basic household tasks.

“I could not do the simplest of tasks around the house; I needed to have at least one of my grandchildren around to assist,” she explained.

“I would do the laundry, and someone would point out that the clothes were still dirty. Not being able to complete my daily tasks bothered me a lot because I was used to doing things myself, and I was still physically able to, apart from my eye issue,” Filander said.

Since she could not afford to visit an optometrist, she lived with her situation until someone told her about VisionBox.

Getting the necessary help

At VisionBox Paarl, Magdelina underwent an eye test where optometrist Nompumelelo Ndaba realised that Magdelina suffered from presbyopia or age-related farsightedness. Presbyopia is a common age-related condition that affects the ability to focus on nearby objects.

According to Nompumelelo, presbyopia is a natural part of the ageing process and affects nearly everyone to some degree as they get older. It typically becomes noticeable around age 40 and continues to progress until age 65, when it stabilises.

Looking through new lenses

After her eye test, Magdelina was fitted with a new pair of glasses, which helped restore her eyesight.

“When choosing glasses for Magdelina, we considered different factors such as her visual requirements, lifestyle, and any other refractive errors she may have [such as nearsightedness]. These factors allowed us to prescribe her the right glasses for what she does daily,” Nompumelelo explained.

“There are several options available to address presbyopia, but prescription glasses are a common and effective solution in correcting it,” Nompumelelo added.

Magdelina told of the remarkable difference in her eyesight and quality of life since receiving her new glasses.

“I struggled to see for a long time. I started getting used to not seeing properly and thought this was normal. Now, I can see properly. I read books, watch soaps on the television, and I can once again take care of my household as I did before my eyesight deteriorated.”

“I will forever be grateful because when you are old, people do not always care if you can hear and see properly. People forget you. I am glad there is a place like VisionBox that remembers us,” Magdelina concluded.