'I could sit at home and feel sorry for myself, or get out and do the things I wanted.'

Posted: Wednesday 22 August 2018

In 1988, aged just 51, Josephine noticed that straight lines were starting to look wobbly and words were broken up on the page.

She recognised the symptoms of macular disease straight away, as her father and aunt had both been affected from the age of 47. Although the laser treatment available at the time didn’t help her, she was determined not to let sight loss stop her learning.

“My friend and I carried on going to night school to learn Spanish,” she says. “Sadly, in 1995, my second eye began to be affected too, and I changed to a keep-fit class that didn’t involve reading or writing.

“One day a teacher came to lead a line dance lesson. None of us had heard of it at the time, but I loved it.” She continued taking classes and started entering competitions. Before long a local blind society had asked her to lead a class. “I thought I should do it properly and I wanted to push myself, so I took the official teachers’ exam,” she says. “One of the other students put the whole thing on tape for me. When the certificate arrived to say I’d passed, I was quite overcome!”

Now Josephine teaches a weekly class in Sheffield, and her loyal students have been part of the class for many years. “It’s like a social club,” she says. “It has a lovely atmosphere, and newcomers always say how welcome they feel.” And it’s not just the students who benefit:

“Dancing and teaching have brought so much happiness to me, and to other people. I have a group of people who love it and it makes me proud that I have taught them to do all the complicated steps.

“When I was first diagnosed, I thought that I could sit at home and feel sorry for myself, or get out and do the things I wanted. There was nothing I could do to stop my sight getting worse, so I may as well look at it in a positive way – my eyes were bad, not my legs.”

Josephine believes that there must be a faulty gene that has caused several of her family to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at an early age. “But we must also have a gene for a positive attitude,” she adds. “My father and aunt were determined to carry on, and so am I.

“I am 82 now and it can be a struggle to do the work involved in teaching, but I am still a good mover, although I say it myself!”