Although there is growing awareness of the dramatic increase across Europe of those over the age of 65, there is still widespread failure to acknowledge the significant growth in age related sight loss. In simple terms, prevalence of serious sight loss increases with age from 3.27% age 60 to 69 years up to 15% between 80 and 89 years. Whilst work has been carried out on access issues for blind and partially sighted people, nothing has been done before which links together the specific needs of older people with those having a serious sight loss.
In 2013, a partnership project between the European Blind Union and theEuropean Guide Dog Federation with additional collaborative support and assistance from Age Platform Europe has produced a report entitled A Tale of Three Cities. This looks at the experiences of a cross section of blind and partially sighted elderly people in three European cities, Tullamore in Ireland, Salzburg in Austria and Marseille in France. The report uses specific criteria to examine the experiences of older people in adapting to poor vision whilst endeavouring to continue accessing the communities in which they live.
The conclusions of this project provide evidence that will help to improve the lives of older blind and partially sighted people throughout Europe. The document also provides a toolkit which can be used both by agencies working with older people and those specifically supporting people with a serious sight loss. This is the first document of its kind dealing with age-related sight loss and provides vital evidence to encourage all countries to improve the age friendliness of environments, taking on board the needs of persons with visual impairments.