A 95-YEAR-OLD Newport volunteer has stepped down after more than a decade of making a difference to the sight loss community.

Mary Kennett organised the monthly Macular Society Newport Support Group for 11 years.

The group is overseen by national sight loss charity, the Macular Society.

Groups like these across the UK offer information, encouragement and friendship to people who are affected by macular disease and other sight loss conditions.

“I’m sorry that it’s come to an end but it’s nice to step away after all that time,” Mrs Kennett said.

South Wales Argus:

“Most members who came to our group often said the same thing - they thought they were the only people with macular disease in the town.

"They didn’t realise how many others had a similar condition, and they were so isolated before joining the group which they found a great comfort.”

What is macular disease and is there a cure?

Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected and many more are at risk.

The disease can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces.

Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement.

There is still no cure and most types of the disease are not treatable.

Mrs Kennett was diagnosed with the condition in 2009 and her central vision has deteriorated slowly over the years.

She said: “I thought it was the end of the world. I didn’t know anything about macular degeneration, literally the only doctor I saw in the hospital said ‘there’s nothing we can do, goodbye’.

"I felt thrown out. I saw my husband outside and I just burst into tears, not knowing what the future would hold for me. I wasn’t told where to go, or what macular disease really was."

She explained that support groups, such as the one in Newport, can help fight the loneliness and isolation among people with macular disease.

The Newport Support Group meets on the first Monday of the month from 1pm at the Salvation Army Hall on Hill Street.