The expected increase in visual impairment in the workplace is an emerging issue for employers. As the 30 million so-called baby boomers age, the number of Americans who experience vision loss will grow. Currently about 21 million adults in the United States have vision loss (Center for Disease Control, 2014). Of those, 33 percent are age 65 or older. However, seniors are not the age group with the most people who will experience vision loss. Surveys that use more lenient criteria for identifying people with vision loss have found that the baby boomer generation, those between 45 and 64 years of age, has yet to experience the full extent of the severity of age-related eye conditions (Special Report on Aging and Vision Loss). The onset of age-related vision loss can be seen in US Census data, beginning in people in their late 40s or early 50s.

Data from Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2008

Graph   showing the percentage of the population who self-identified as   having difficulty seeing words or letters. These data, from the   Survey of Income and Program Participation 2008, are ranked by age   ranges. They show that from birth to about age 44 those reporting   difficulty seeing words or letters constitute less than 2% of the US   population. In the 45-64 age range it rises to about 4.5%. At 65-79   it rises a little over 8% and for people who are 80 or older it   reaches about 17%.

Narrative Description:

The above graph shows the percentage of the population who self- identified as having difficulty seeing words or letters. These data, from the Survey of Income and Program Participation 2008, are ranked by age ranges. They show that from birth to about age 44 those reporting difficulty seeing words or letters constitute less than 2% of the US population. In the 45-64 age range it rises to about 4.5%. At 65-79 it rises a little over 8% and for people who are 80 or older it reaches about 17%.

About Visual Impairment

Visual impairment may be due to age-related eye disorders or to normal vision changes to the aging eye. Some of these changes may affect performance but be very difficult to recognize. This can result in an employee’s productivity decreasing, with no one knowing why. One of the most difficult limitations is fluctuating vision. Fluctuations may depend on time of day, the environment, or how the person is feeling physically or emotionally. The condition is hard to explain to others and can result in major changes in a person’s ability to function consistently on a day-to-day basis.

Normal Changes to the Aging Eye

  • Diminished focusing power
  • Need for more light
  • Increased sensitivity to glare
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Difficulty with light/dark adaptation
  • Reduced sensitivity to color perception and contrast; reduced depth perception

Age-related Vision Loss Due to Eye Disorders

  • Macular degeneration: affects central vision
  • Diabetic retinopathy: makes vision distorted
  • Glaucoma: affects peripheral vision
  • Cataracts: makes vision cloudy

Surveys

Researchers can identify the characteristics and projections about older Americans with vision loss as the baby boomer generation continues to grow. Surveys, such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), investigates “health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and the use of preventative services” to identify the future of vision loss. According to the BRFSS, “cases of early age-related macular degeneration are expected to double by 2050, from 9.1 million to 17.8 million for those aged 50 years or older” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016). The survey also claims “cases of diabetic retinopathy among people aged 65 or older are expected to quadruple by 2050, from 2.5 million to 9.9 million” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016).

Read Research Navigator: Age is Just a Number for more statistical information on age-related vision loss.

References

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