World Seniors Day- Opinion piece

On this International Day of Older Persons, I, Dr. Petia Stratieva and the rest of the team at Retina International (RI), join the global call for intergenerational solidarity and the fulfilment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Older Persons. 

The world’s population aged 65 and older is set to double by 2050, reaching 1.6 billion, with an even steeper increase among those aged 80 and above. This demographic shift underscores the urgent need to prioritize health and well-being throughout life. 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision impairment among older individuals, affecting over 200 million people worldwide, including 10 million with advanced AMD. As our global population ages, the prevalence of AMD is on the rise. 

Late-stage AMD takes a toll on well-being and productivity, leading to significant economic burdens. Our data reveal that issues like low vision, anxiety, and depression affect a substantial portion of the AMD population. Employment is also profoundly affected, with job losses and reduced working hours experienced by a significant portion of advanced AMD patients. 

In June 2023, RI conducted a policy consultation involving over 10 member organizations representing AMD patients globally. Patient representatives identified three key priorities: 

  • Mental Well-being: Emotional support and psychological guidance for patients and caregivers were unanimously recognized as top priorities. 
  • Access to Rehabilitation Services and Education: Most respondents emphasized the importance of access to rehabilitation services, digital education for elderly individuals with low vision, and immediate therapy availability post-regulatory approval with public funding. 
  • Inclusion in the Workforce: Ensuring visually impaired patients’ inclusion in the workforce, along with barrier-free access to public spaces, employer support, and workplace modifications, emerged as critical concerns. 

A Call to Action 

As Policy Manager at Retina International, I propose that we call upon governments and stakeholders to prioritize the mental well-being of older persons, particularly the AMD community. By actively involving older individuals in policy development, in line with the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the UN decade for healthy aging, we can safeguard their well-being and lifelong productivity. 

Together, let’s advocate for a future where retinal health thrives, where the elderly are empowered, and where our collective efforts create a healthier and more inclusive world for all. 

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