80 year old veteran Tony Crouch speaks about age-related sight loss

11 February 2014 14:00

Ex-National Service man and motorcycling enthusiast Tony Crouch speaks about life with age-related sight loss.

80 year old Tony Crouch, a former National Service man from Ipswich, began to lose his sight when he started to develop age-related sight loss, with a condition called macular degeneration and a macular hole. Tony said "I was having difficulty reading my motorbike magazines until I was given a magnifier and LED reading lamp to help."

As a keen motorcyclist Tony's concerns over losing his eye sight surrounded his lifelong hobby of motorcycling. For many blind veterans, being unable to do the same things you did before, such as reading, can become isolating.

Tony started to lose his sight nearly 60 years after leaving the Forces. He was referred to Blind Veterans UK by his local blind association to receive free support to learn how to live beyond his vision impairment.

Despite his sight problems, Tony was not sure how much he could be helped by Blind Veterans UK: "My first reaction was, 'Well, that's not for me - I only did National Service and my sight loss isn't because of my time in the Army, so surely I can't be eligible'.

"What I didn't realise at the time was that Blind Veterans UK gives support to veterans with sight loss, no matter when or how they lost their sight. I filled in an application form, sent it off and was offered support from the charity shortly after.

"After the help I've received, I simply can't speak highly enough of Blind Veterans UK."

Tony has been given equipment such as a magnifier and LED reading lamp to help him continue his passion for reading motorcycle magazines: "I just thought it was absolutely unbelievable - I've always loved reading about motorcycling, but I never thought I'd still be able to after losing my sight'."

Like millions of young men of his generation, Tony was called up for National Service when he turned 21. Serving in the Royal Signals from 1954 to 1956, Tony served at military bases in the UK and Germany, before being discharged as a lance corporal.

"Of course, when you were called up, chances are you didn't want to do it - you're taken out of your natural environment and sometimes posted a long way from your friends and family. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, though.

"I was slung in with about 30 other people from all over the British Isles, all from different backgrounds, all working together. It was a great experience, and a fantastic education." Following his service, Tony worked for a local motorcycle dealership under legendary European Motocross champion Dave Bickers.

"It was something I love doing, being around the bikes. Maybe I could have earned more somewhere else, but money isn't everything and I just enjoyed it so much."

Research shows that there are 68,000 plus blind veterans who, like Tony, are eligible for our free services and support but are not currently aware of this. If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces, did National Service, and are now battling severe sight problems, request free support through our No One Alone campaign by calling 0800 389 7979.