With May marking Older Americans Month, it is important to pause and consider the important issues facing older adults. This includes ensuring that they become their own eye health advocate.
While many seniors may be up-to-date on their routine physical exams, data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that many older adults don’t seek routine eye care services, despite the fact that vision loss is associated with a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions and decreased quality of life for seniors. As individuals grow older, the risk for blindness and vision impairment increases rapidly – especially among those age 75+. According to data from national studies, when vision loss occurs, it places older adults at a greater risk for falls and injuries. Older adults with moderate or extreme vision loss have also reported a higher prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke than those without vision loss.
In addition, many seniors find themselves feeling depressed or isolated because they are no longer able to drive a car to visit friends and family. Quality of life is also decreased due to the inability to read, watch television or maintain personal accounts.
Common eye diseases associated with aging include cataracts, a condition that causes clouding of the eye’s lens; glaucoma, a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve; and Age-Related Macular Degeneration, a disease that affects the central part of the retina and makes it difficult to see fine detail. Research has demonstrated that routine eye exams can help address these eye conditions, and may even have the potential to remediate 50% of vision problems, yet many older adults don’t seek regular eye care, either by choice or due to lack of access.
This May, and every day, encourage your older loved ones to make their eye health a priority. And, when possible, show your support for community and state public health initiatives that demonstrate the importance of eye care for seniors. Vision is a precious gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted.