New tricks! 94-year-old may be oldest person to learn braille at Hoopono

New tricks! 94-year-old may be oldest person to learn braille at Hoopono

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Betty Petherbridge is 94-years-young and quite possibly the oldest person to study braille at Hoopono, the Department of Human Services’ program for the blind.

She suffers from glaucoma and macular degeneration.

“When the doctor told me I was losing my sight, I thought blind, and blind meant braille,” she said.

Her advanced age didn’t factor into her decision to challenge herself to learn braille, which she says is very challenging.

“It takes a lot of concentration,” she said.

Recognizing braille’s system of raised dots on a page enable the blind to read with their fingertips. Instructor Debbie Gabe, who’s also visually impaired, calls Betty a model student.

“Her attitude is very positive. She works hard. She makes it a point to practice. I wish all of our students were like Betty,” she says.

Many of Hoopono’s instructors are blind, so they teach from a perspective that helps students learn the skills they’ll need to live full lives despite their conditions.

“A lot of times in society, blindness is perceived as a negative thing. Fear, helplessness. That’s where we come in, to change that perspective,” said Gavan Abe, Hoopono’s community services coordinator.

Betty wants to learn braille to keep her mind sharp, so she can read her Bible and other books.

"It'll be awhile until I conquer that. That's for sure," she joked.

She’s also learning to write in Braille. To seniors who think they’re too old to learn something new, Betty says to keep trying and learning.

“You’re not dead yet,” she said.

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