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embargoed until 00:01 hrs 10 December 2007

Pensioners who fail to have regular eye tests risk depression and feel isolated and vulnerable according to a shocking new report1 launched to mark National Eye Week (10 – 16 December 2007).

The ‘Sight after Sixty’ report commissioned by national sight charity the Eyecare Trust2 and the Central (LOC) Fund3 found one in three OAPs who missed out on regular sight checks said the quality of their vision causes them to feel depressed and vulnerable.

Ninety six percent of the population aged 60 plus require some form of vision correction4. However, more than four million OAPs across the UK are missing out on vital NHS sight tests every year – despite more than a quarter of those surveyed saying the quality of their vision restricts their daily routine and more than half are prevented from reading books and magazines.

Fear of cost seems to be a major barrier to many older people caring for their eyes as 30 per cent of those surveyed believed it would “cost a lot of money” even though eye examinations for the over 60s have been free on the NHS since April 1999. Vouchers to assist with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses are also available for people on low incomes and those requiring complex lenses.

Iain Anderson, Chairman of the Eyecare Trust comments: “Good vision is so often a key factor in the elderly maintaining their dignity and independence. A simple eye examination could help improve the quality of life of millions of pensioners. It’s unforgivable that elderly people are left feeling depressed and vulnerable by the quality of their vision when sight loss in older people is very often avoidable.”

Iain continues: “Poor vision is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Almost a third of all visual impairment in people aged over 75 is solely due to wearing the wrong glasses or no glasses at all! Regular eye examinations are also vital to ensure the early detection of a range of age-related eye conditions that can often be easily managed. Eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, a new prescription and low vision aids are all simple ways in which you can help maintain and preserve your vision.”

The report also found that those people who failed to have regular eye examinations had a low awareness of age-related eye conditions and believed they were not at risk of sight loss. Only half of those surveyed had heard of age-related macular degeneration – the biggest cause of blindness in the UK and just one on 10 were aware of presbyopia – a condition that reduces our ability to focus and affects more than 25 million people across the UK.

The actress and author, Nanette Newman, has lent her support to the National Eye Week campaign to highlight the benefits of good eye care for the over 60s. Commenting on the campaign Nanette said: “I feel passionate about the role that good eye care plays in helping the elderly maintain their dignity and independence. I’ve seen the benefits of caring for my own eyes – I hope you will too!”

Further research5 has shown how 75 per cent of older people who suffer a fall as a result of poor vision had a visual impairment that was easily correctable. So don’t be a fall guy - if you’re aged 60 or over make sure you have regular eye examinations on the NHS.

For further information about eye care for the over 60s and the Sight after Sixty - it’s your right campaign log on to


For more information contact:
Rachel Robson in the Eyecare Trust press office on 01225 423394 or email

Notes to editors:
• Photography and case studies available on request.

• People aged 60 - 69 years of age are entitled to a free eye examination paid for by the NHS once every two years and people aged 70 plus are entitled to an annual check-up. Those who are unable to visit a high street optician unaccompanied, are entitled to a free NHS domiciliary sight test in their own home or residential home.

• Facts about common age related eye examinations...

Glaucoma - An estimated half a million people suffer from glaucoma in England and Wales alone.

Age-related cataracts - Twenty six per cent of all cases of sight loss in people aged 75 and over is due to untreated cataracts despite the fact that vision can be restored with a routine surgical procedure.

Age-related macular degeneration - By the time you reach the age of 75 you have a one in three chance of suffering from the condition.

Diabetic retinopathy - According to Diabetes UK more than half a million people with diabetes suffer from diabetic retinopathy.

Keraconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) - Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome is the most common cause of eye irritation in people aged 65 and over.

1. The Sight After Sixty survey was conducted by Shape the Future in October 2007.
2. The Eyecare Trust is a registered charity that exists to promote awareness of ocular health and the importance of good eye care.
3. The Central (LOC) Fund exists to provide finance for long-term and single issues which are considered to be of benefit for the ophthalmic profession as a whole.
4. General Household Survey
5. Jack CI, et al. Gerentology.

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