Addressing age-related visual impairments, like presbyopia, is an increasingly important and achievable policy priority as the oldest Millennials reach middle age.
New York, NEW YORK (March 15, 2022)—The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today published an infographic, Vision Health and the Future of Work: An Underrecognized Priority for Governments and Employers in the 21stCentury, highlighting the growing importance of preventing avoidable visual impairments and the cascading consequences across healthcare and the 21st century workplace should visual impairments remain unaddressed. The infographic was created in partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).
Globally, 2.2 billion people are living with a vision impairment, and 1 billion of these cases were either left untreated or were entirely avoidable. As our population ages, preventable visual impairment is growing in prevalence. By 2050, the number of people over 65 will almost double, from 1 in 11 to 1 in 6 people. Presbyopia is a commonly unaddressed visual impairment that often begins around age 40, when people are in the prime of their working lives. It is estimated that 510 million people cannot see well at near distances.
“Presbyopia offers an important example of where we can be doing. more. It’s widely underrecognized, in part due to ageism, yet it affects an individual’s ability to carry out a range of near vision activities—from hobbies, to mobile phone usage, to the sorts of precision tasks required in the workplace, impacting office workers and trade workers alike, with impacts starting much earlier than most people realize,” explained Mike Hodin, CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging.
The loss of productivity from presbyopia and other visual impairments will become even more consequential as the Millennial generation, the largest global generation, reaches age 40 and more older adults continue to work past traditional retirement age.
Already an estimated one-third of workers worldwide have some form of unaddressed visual impairment in need of correction, and costs due to vision loss are expected to grow as the population ages. In 2019, the U.S. spent $168 billion on direct medical costs alone for visual impairment and loss, a figure that is expected to reach $717 billion by 2050.
The infographic calls for multiple levels of action to address avoidable age-related visual impairments through:
- greater action by policymakers and employers to support employee vision health,
- increased employee awareness of their own vision health and the importance of prevention, early diagnosis and care,
- further research on the impacts of age-related visual impairments on employee productivity, participation, and quality of life.