Actress Dame Judi Dench refuses to retire despite battling serious vision loss

87 year-old Dame Judi Dench is shrugging off the possibility of retirement despite battling advanced macular degeneration, a condition that leads to serious vision loss.

The celebrated British actress, who spoke to MarkMeets about her latest film at this years British film festival will open up to documentarian Louis Theroux about her illness in an upcoming episode for his BBC2 show.

“I don’t want to retire. I’m not doing much at the moment because I can’t see. It’s bad.”

Age-related macular degeneration, commonly shortened to AMD, is a chronic and painless disease of the macula, an area at the very centre of the retina, at the back of the eye.

The illness causes “progressive loss of central vision” but leaves one’s peripheral vision intact.

“This loss of central vision affects the ability to read, watch TV, and recognise faces. But, by itself, AMD doesn’t lead to total vision loss,” the foundation explains.

Dench goes on to explain how she is learning to cope with the condition, which is unfortunately in its advanced stages and left her unable to read or write.

“I’ve got to teach myself a new way of learning. I have a photographic memory so a person saying to me, ‘This is your line’…  I can do that. And I have many people who can help me,” she says.

Completely resolute, the actress adds: “I’ll teach myself a way, I know I will. So long as I don’t trip over doing it.”

The Skyfall actress then detailed an “important dinner” she attended a few weeks ago with her partner David Mills, where the symptoms of her condition appeared to be at their worst.

“It was so dark [at the restaurant] that I said to my partner David, who was next to me, ‘Have I anything on my plate?’.

“He said, ‘Yes’. I said, ‘Does it need cutting up? So he said, ‘Yes’ and I said, ‘Would you do it?’ He cut it up and handed something to me on a fork and that’s the way I ate it.”

The actress said she didn’t know if she finished her plate, since she couldn’t see a thing.

“I probably scooped it all up and over the side of the plate for all I know,” she remarked.

So far, Dench has proved true to her word about continuing with her career, having just recently starred in Richard Eyre’s film Allelujah.

In 2021 she appeared in Kenneth Branagh’s film Belfast, and the drama-comedy Off the Rails, alongside Kelly Preston, Peter Bowles and Jenny Seagrove.

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Stevie Flavio
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