Lovat Fields Village resident Richard Barrett is used to making the most of his life. When failing eyesight threatened to tear his world apart he faced the challenge head on.
At 66, he is enjoying the facilities at ExtraCare's Lovat Fields Village in Milton Keynes to the full. He is blind, but that hasn't stopped him doing everything from riding a horse in an Olympic style relay to paddling in a dragon boat race.
Richard was in his late twenties when he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, the name given to a group of inherited diseases of the retina that all lead to a gradual progressive reduction in vision.
At the time he was a father of three young children and ran a successful plant hire business. His eyesight had been deteriorating slowly since his early twenties and along with the initial shock came relief that he had a diagnosis. However, within a couple of years, Richard had lost everything. The business folded and his marriage came to an end. Richard had to start again.
"You have to make things happen, that's my attitude," he says. "If there's a challenge, I like to face it."
Richard has always had loved horses and owned a six acre paddock. He decided to launch a livery business and kept horses in stables on the site. Richard started buying and selling horses, and breaking young horses and the business grew.
At the same time his sight was deteriorating. It was usually in the spring when he noticed. "I realised I couldn't see as well as I could the previous year," he recalls.
But this didn't stop him. He adapted the yard, putting rubber mats on the floor so that he didn't have to muck out the horses with straw. He installed a sound system in the menage with bleeps in the corners so that he could locate where he was by listening to the sound.
Fifteen years ago Richard lost any useful vision and was registered blind.
He gave up working just before he moved into Lovat Fields Village in Willen on New Year's Eve 2011. Although he loved his home he had started to feel isolated there in winter.
"I got fed up and bored not being able to get out as I liked so I came here," he says. "I like to do things."
Richard now goes into the gym in the Village four times a week. "I really love the gym," he says. "I'd never done it before I came here. I push myself to the limit. It's a challenge."
He loves to use the rowing machine, the cycle machine, the treadmill and the weights. Fitness Instructor Hayley helps him to set up the programmes. "She is brilliant with everyone," he says. "She is very enthusiastic."
He goes to a shooting club every Monday afternoon with the local blind association and for a walk most mornings. In the winter he is looking forward to dancing and bowls. And he enjoys being able to talk to people in the bar or the coffee room at the Village.
Richard was one of the paddlers when Lovat Fields Village entered the Milton Keynes Dragon Boat Festival.
He also took part in The ExtraCare Charitable Trust's own Olympic-style torch relay. He led a group of residents on a journey to another Village on horseback. Other residents travelled on bikes, in a 1950s double-decker bus and taxi and a 1940s ice cream van.
And he enjoyed the 'tropical party' with Caribbean buffet and steel band to celebrate the Village's fifth birthday.
Richard believes it is important to keep older people active. "I definitely feel better for it. I know I do," he says.
"I feel this is the right place for me."
Picture: Richard rides a horse during ExtraCare's Olympic-style torch relay.
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