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Vision loss is no longer an inevitable part of getting older, according to new report presented by the International Federation on Ageing

Vision loss is no longer an inevitable part of getting older, according to new report presented by the International Federation on Ageing © Ronald Schuster |

A report just released by the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) calls for increased public education and awareness programmes, improved public policies and greater integration of preventive eye health interventions into public health systems.

The study, “The High Cost of Low Vision: The Evidence on Ageing and the Loss of Sight,” highlights that vision loss is no longer an inevitable part of the ageing process, as people can now age with strong, healthy vision, given 21st-century innovations in diagnosis, biomedicine, nutrition, technology and preventive care. “This shift in the traditional perception of ageing is truly transformative,” says Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the IFA. “As 80 percent of vision loss is preventable, it is our ethical responsibility and a public health imperative that we take action now.”

The over-60 population is expected to reach 2 billion by mid-century. As this cohort rapidly grows to become the largest population segment of many societies globally, rates of preventable vision loss are also soaring. Today, 285 million people around the world are visually impaired, including 39 million who are totally blind, and that number will explode without preventive measures. The direct costs of vision impairment worldwide are estimated to reach $2.8 trillion by 2020, and the indirect costs will add another $760 billion.

Further, vision loss creates a “snowball effect,” which can affect mobility and daily activities and often leads to depression, injury and the need for long-term care, resulting in healthcare and associated service costs.  Vision loss and related health conditions in older adults also impacts families, caregivers and society at large.  For instance, people with advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have much lower rates of employment and significantly lower incomes than those without vision impairment.

The report, released this month in New York, emphasizes that measures to prevent vision loss are cost-effective and calls for urgent attention in key areas:

  • Integrating visual screening and other preventive eye-health interventions into public health practices for adults of all ages;
  • Creating education and awareness programs that include vision-loss prevention, detection, and treatment regimens;
  • Reimbursing both treatments and preventive eye health interventions to ensure positive impact on system-wide costs and support for future innovation;
  • Developing and utilizing tele-health mechanisms to provide greater access to screening and treatment regardless of geographical location;
  • Advocating for vision loss to become widely recognized as a preventable health condition; and
  • Conducting more research on the outcomes and efficacy of preventive eye health.

The full report may be downloaded here.