By OLIVIA BURNS, Aging Texas Well Coordinator
February is Low Vision Awareness Month, which promotes education on the importance of eye health at all ages to prevent future vision loss. According to a report by the Aging Texas Well Advisory Committee, approximately 261,000 Texans 65 and older experience vision difficulties. Fortunately, routine checkups, early detection and treatment of common eye diseases can help preserve eye health.
There are a variety of programs available to help older adults at risk of or who have vision loss. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment program partners with Prevent Blindness Texas to provide free vision screenings to assess risk for vision loss and eye diseases. BEST also provides financial assistance to eligible Texas residents with medically urgent vision needs and a referral from their ophthalmologist. To learn more, email BESTprogram@hhsc.state.tx.us.
Prevent Blindness Texas helps educate on types of vision loss, including Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), treatment options, low vision services and more.
“The best way to save vision from AMD and other forms of eye disease is to get an annual eye exam from an eye health professional,” said Heather Patrick, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Texas. “Early detection and adhering to treatment can actually save your sight for years to come.”
Prevent Blindness also offers “Living Well with Low Vision,” a free online library of tools to help people maintain their independence and quality of life. For more information, visit texas.preventblindness.org.
For older adults whose vision is no longer correctable to 20/20, low vision rehabilitation services are vital for helping them live independently. Services and supports can include rehabilitation training through vocational or independent living services specialists and assistive technology, such as magnifiers and audio books.
Organizations can also help by making their spaces and materials more accessible by controlling lighting glare, increasing the color contrast in rooms and meeting spaces, and enhancing font size and color contrast on print materials.
“Continuing to read, performing household chores, walking safely and participating in recreational activities involving visual tasks are imperative to one’s independence, productivity and fulfilment in life,” said Neva Fairchild, national aging and vision loss specialist with the American Foundation for the Blind “A visit to a low vision specialist can enable a person to use their remaining vision to its maximum potential.”
In addition to the programs and services mentioned, your local Aging and Disability Resource Center can help connect you to services available in your community. To find your ADRC, call 855-937-2372.