#FindOutMore: Older Adults from Two Sights for Hope Counties Exceed State Rate for Visual Impairments

A new report by the VisionServe Alliance and The Ohio State University states that two of the three counties in Sights for Hope’s service area exceed Pennsylvania’s average rate of older adults with visual impairments.

The research from the university’s College of Optometry shows that 6.0% of Pennsylvanians ages 65 and up have difficulty seeing while wearing glasses and that Monroe County’s rate of 7.3% is the sixth highest in the state. In Lehigh County, the rate is 6.1% and in Northampton County, Sights for Hope’s third service county, the rate is 5.4%.

The report’s details show that 45% of older adults with visual impairments report having fair or poor overall health, that older women are more than 1.5 times more likely to have a visual impairment, and that one-third of older adults with visual impairments have annual incomes below $20,000. The study also found that older adults with vision impairments report higher prevalence of chronic conditions – including stroke, arthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, and depression – than their peers who do not have visual impairments.

A total of 65% of Sights for Hope’s clients are ages 65 and up and approximately 65% of Sights for Hope clients are female. Approximately 85% of Sights for Hope clients are from low-income households – defined as an income of no more than 300% of the federal poverty thresholds. More than 40% of Sights for Hope clients report experiencing other significant medical difficulties.

“This important report confirms what we observe on a daily basis within a primary portion of the people we serve, and it illustrates the critical need for our services in the Lehigh Valley and Monroe County,” said Dennis Zehner, Executive Director and CEO of Sights for Hope. “It also underscores the importance of our approach to client engagement, which focuses on the person as much as it focuses on their sight.”

Pennsylvania is one of eight states profiled in reports released by the VisionServe Alliance and The Ohio State University.

Sights for Hope is a member of the VisionServe Alliance. Based in St. Louis, Mo., the alliance is a network of North American agencies that serve people with visual impairments. It provides education programs and opportunities for collaboration shaped to advance the quality of services provided and the impacts made by its members.

Sights for Hope blends a service tradition inspired by Helen Keller nearly a century ago with contemporary practices to remove the barriers to independence and success caused by visual impairments. Sights for Hope transforms the lives of people with visual impairments in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and Monroe County through life skills education, specialized technologies, individualized support services, free vision screenings for children, and community education programs. Sights for Hope services impact more than 10,000 people in a typical year and are provided at little or no cost. A total of 85% of Sights for Hope clients with visual impairments are from low-income households. Sights for Hope, known formerly as Center for Vision Loss, is an independent member of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind (PAB).

Image: An older woman holding a pair of glasses with a multi-colored frame