“Don’t dwell on the negative, find ways to accentuate the positive.”

This is Dr John Hinchcliff’s philosophy. He has applied it to challenges throughout his life and he says deteriorating vision is no different.

The 79-year-old from Auckland has macular degeneration and glaucoma, which has worsened over the past three months.

“My vision is all a bit vague. I can’t see details anymore, like colour. It’s pretty frustrating when you cannot recognise people you know well.”

John isn’t a stranger to challenges. He has made education his life and was the vice chancellor of Auckland University of Technology – responsible for turning the first polytechnic in New Zealand into a university.

He has also written and edited nine books – including one about the 1881 invasion and destruction of the Parihaka settlement.

Not afraid to stand up for what he believes in, he is a veteran of the peace and nuclear disarmament movement and even sought Labour Party candidacy in Mt Eden in 1978 but was unsuccessful.

Continuing to read after vision loss

Education still plays a large role in John’s life, and he still serves on many boards within the sector.

His office is lined with books – books he has written, that he has read, ones he would like to read again, and ones he has been meaning to read.

“I read a lot – and to lose that ability is a damn nuisance, but I’ve learned to take things in my stride with any such challenge, and I will do the same with this one.”

John learnt when he contacted the Blind Foundation that becoming low vision didn’t mean he had to give up reading, and he is looking into getting a tool which magnifies text.

He is also working with our orientation and mobility specialists learning how to use a white cane so he can maintain his independence.

“The tuition I have had has been very caring and I don’t know what more I could have asked for.”

Getting old is inevitable

When asked if he has any advice for people who may be in a similar situation at the beginning of their vision loss journey, John talks about the inevitability of aging.

“All of us are finite, there is an ending. Our bodies will wear out, we will have accidents and that’s part of being human.

“Someone said the deadliest death is to be alive and not know it – enjoy living and make the most of it.”