Today, 11 October, is World Sight Day – a pertinent time to focus people’s attention on blindness and vision impairment, particularly in their later years.
Blind Foundation Orthoptist Practice Advisor Claire Fitzgerald says the scale of people who have an eye condition in later life can surprise people.
“Glaucoma NZ tells us that one in 10 people over 70 develop glaucoma, which if left unrecognised can lead to sight loss. While it can’t be cured, it can be treated and managed when it’s detected early. The likelihood of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye conditions also increases with age.”
Fitzgerald says that once people have one eye condition, they can overlook others.
“Not being able to focus on objects close to your face, a condition known as presbyopia, will affect most people in their 40s. This condition intensifies as people reach their 50s and most people will have to renew their prescription.
“Many people in their 40s and 50s don’t need glasses for distance, and it can be tempting to pick up a pair of hobby glasses from the local shops. While these may allow you to still read the newspaper, it means you’ve missed out on having an expert examine your eyes. We know that many common eye conditions develop in our mid and later years.”
The Blind Foundation urges people to get their eyes checked, even if an eye condition has already been diagnosed.
“This applies to people who have received support from the Blind Foundation, too. If you already have low vision, it’s vital to look after your remaining sight. We really encourage people to continue to get their eyes checked, as other conditions can develop,” says Fitzgerald.
“While some eye conditions do not have a cure, new treatments are becoming available all the time. If you notice a change in your vision which concerns you, talk to your eye health professional.
“The need for vision rehabilitation, which provides practical and emotional support helping people adjust to life with vision loss, will become increasingly important as New Zealand’s population ages.”
The number of people aged 65+ is projected to double by 2046. It is expected there will be 1.32 – 1.42 million people aged 65+ in 2043, and 1.62 – 2.06 million in 2068, according to Statistics New Zealand.