Meet Fred the centenarian with sight loss

Fred is one of our service users from Oldham and he has been living with sight loss for many years. But even at the ripe old age of 100 he is not letting his visual impairment slow him down! Read about Fred's life growing up in Manchester, and the celebrations that marked his very special birthday.

When I arrived at Fred’s home he still had cards, balloons and gifts on display, including the wonderful framed letter from Her Majesty The Queen!

We started our chat discussing Fred’s eye condition; he was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in his right eye ten years ago, and after a fast referral to a hospital specialist whilst visiting family, he underwent three injections into the eye to stop the growth of the abnormal blood vessels.

Unfortunately, Fred was then diagnosed with wet AMD in his left eye just four months ago, and has already had two injections with one more planned at the Oldham Integrated Care Centre (ICC) soon.  AMD affects the middle part of your vision, making every day tasks like reading, watching TV, and recognising faces difficult; Fred has received practical support from the low-vision clinic, Henshaws and other sight loss organisations.

Fred finds it difficult watching the television now so he regularly listens to the radio, especially his favourite radio stations Classic FM and BBC Radio 4.  Fred also uses the RNIB’s free Talking Books service, receiving three books at a time through the post on a USB stick (he has a device to listen to the books through his headphones) – his favourite authors are Bill Bryson, Jeffrey Archer and John Steinbeck.

Fred also uses an Optelec magnifier to help him read his correspondence.

Image shows an elderly gentleman holding a framed certificate which has a photo of the Queen alongside a congratulatory message to Fred for turning 100 years old.
Image shows a black and white photograph of Gorton Baths, an old brick-built building with separate entrances for men and women.

Early life

Fred was born in 1919 at his childhood home in West Gorton.  Fred remembers growing up at this time, with the tin bath hung up in the back yard; although the municipal pool (Gorton Baths) just around the corner let locals use the hot showers for 3 pence (which included a small piece of soap!) At about the age of 10, he moved with his family to a home in Longsight, which had electricity!

After leaving school, Fred gained an apprenticeship as a machine tool fitter in Reddish.  By the time the Second World War broke out, his engineering job made him exempt from conscription and he began turning gun barrels at the munitions factory.  However, Fred later decided to join the Merchant Navy in 1942 as an engineering officer.

Post-war life

After the end of the war, Fred returned to Manchester.  He regularly went ballroom dancing, which is where he met his late wife Frances.  Frances was Catholic, so Fred converted to Catholicism and they married at the Church and Friary of St.Francis (now known as Gorton Monastery).

Fred recalls buying a season ticket for Manchester United back in 1949; the Reds had been playing their games at Maine Road with rivals City after bomb damage to Old Trafford during the war.  When the ground re-opened, Fred bought his season ticket for just £4.50! Fred saw George Best play his first ever game for United!

He continued to go and watch the games for the next 30 years with his two younger brothers.

Image show a black and white photograph of Old Trafford football stadium, which is laying in rubble following a bombing.
Image shows Fred demonstrating how he uses his magnifier to read his mail.

Later life

Fred always had an active life, being involved with the Parent Teacher Association at his children’s school, and running Donkey Derby’s on Saturdays to raise funds for his local church. He also became a Eucharist Minister, assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion at church.

Fred retired from work back in 1984, at the ripe old age of 65.

Fred showed me a photograph of his favourite holiday in a frame on the mantelpiece, with his grandchildren in Florida!

Fred took up sequence dancing about 10 years ago, and still dances every Monday with his partner Ethel (who is only 96!) Fred still goes to watch his local bowls team at both home and away games, and he still likes to walk as much as possible to keep fit.

100th birthday party

Fred was treated to a big party for his special birthday, at Blakeley Golf Club.  The guests were treated to a large ‘100’ shaped birthday cake, and Fred’s grandson and his friend also performed a couple of songs, including ‘Perhaps Love’ by John Denver.

A surprise cake was also organised by Chadderton Aid at their tea dance at Chadderton Town Hall; Fred even let me take a slice of the cake away with me (it was delicious!)

Before I left Fred’s house, after spending a lovely couple of hours chatting, I asked Fred what his secret was to his long life – he told me he always likes to walk, and the odd tipple of sherry seems to help too!

It was a pleasure to meet such a kind gentleman, who has not let his sight loss slow him down!

Image shows an elderly gentleman looking at the camera and smiling.

Find out more about Henshaws in Oldham

To find out more about our services for people living with sights loss across Oldham, call us on 0300 222 5555 or email info@henshaws.org.uk

Our Enablement Officer, Kate, is based at our Oldham hub at Medtia Place, 80 Union Street, OL1 1DJ.  We also run social and skills groups across the borough at venues in Chadderton, Royton, Uppermill, The Link Centre, and Oldham Lifelong Learning Centre.  Find out more by searching our list of activities online here.

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Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

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Sarah
Sarah
Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.