In Canada there are 800,000 people self identified as being blind or partially sighted. Yet only 100,000 clients are registered with CNIB. More than 50% of the CNIB clients are 65 years old and over. It is estimated that in the next 20 years there will be 1.6 million blind or partially sighted people in Canada with the largest percentage being over the age of 80 years, yet Canada is the only G8 Country that does not have a Vision Health Plan in place.
Vision impairment often contributes to injuries and may lead to mortality in older people. Timely intervention can delay the effects of age-related blinding conditions.
Seniors are most prone to four eye diseases – age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. AMD and glaucoma can begin without any symptoms and most seniors do not know they have it. Cataracts can be removed and vision restored. To help prevent eye diseases seniors should wear sunglasses with 98% UV protection during both the summer and winter. Eye exams should be done on a yearly basis. Being blind or partially sighted can lead to depression and isolation. Seniors who are blind or partially sighted believe that they can no longer participate in life. CNIB can show them that this is not true and that enjoyment can be added to their lives. CNIB makes various products accessible for partially sighted seniors and it provides programs that are free of charge to assist seniors to keep their independence.
CNIB offers four key services – Orientation and Mobility, Independent Living Skills, Counselling and Vision Assessment. All of these services are free of charge. An instructor will work with each senior individually to ensure the techniques used are what is required.
The Orientation and Mobility program teaches seniors how to move about the community on their own. One of the techniques taught to accomplish this is caning. Through the Independent Living Skills seniors will be taught how to accomplish the tasks required for daily living which includes getting dressed and cooking meals. Counselling is offered on a one-to-one and group basis for the seniors and the families to give everyone the opportunity to address their fears, worries and frustrations. Adjustment to Vision Loss Course is available to support seniors who are in the process of losing their sight. Vision Assessment allows seniors to maximize their capabilities with their current level of vision such as adjusting the placement of a lamp to make reading easier.