Aging & Vision Loss in the US Hispanic Population

Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th to October 15th

Did you know that almost 14% of Hispanics in the U.S. face significant visual impairment?

To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition, VisionServe Alliance, and the Ohio State University College of Optometry provide groundbreaking data regarding the rate of blindness and low vision among people over 65, with specific insights regarding the Hispanic population in the U.S.

Higher Reported Incidence of Blindness and Low Vision Among Hispanics
The Big Data Project reports provide robust national, state, and county data. Data sets included in the project are the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the American Community Survey (ACS). The findings show that about 7.3% of older people in the U.S. report blindness and low vision, with 13.9% of Hispanics reporting blindness and low vision compared to 6.1% of whites.

The Older Hispanic Population is Projected to Grow Exponentially in the U.S.
According to the 2018 Profile of Hispanic Americans Age 65 and Over report from the Administration for Community Living, “the Hispanic American population (of any race) age 65 and over was 4.2 million in 2017, and is projected to grow to 19.9 million by 2060.”  This trend in the population growth among older Hispanic adults is similar to the national trends in America’s older population as a whole.

Impact of Blindness and Low Vision on Health & Well-Being
People with blindness and low vision report substantial health and social disparities compared to older people without blindness and low vision, differences that potentially compromise function and quality of life. Individuals 65 and older, who have low vision 65, have a significantly higher prevalence of chronic conditions, particularly stroke, arthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, and depression, with 51% of older people with blindness and low vision compared to 23% among older people without visual impairments.

Social Determinants of Health Among Hispanic Americans Age 65+

CategoryHispanics Age 65+US Population
Age 65+
Educational Attainment – High school diploma / Bachelor’s degree or higher  57% / 14% 87% / 29%
Income (median income, 2017)$40,512$61,946
Poverty Rate17%9.2%
Disability Status38%35%
Health Insurance – Both Medicare and supplemental private health insurance / Covered by both Medicare and Medicaid  25% / 17% 46% / 7%
Source: 2018 Profile of Hispanic Americans Age 65 and Over

Impact of Blindness and Low Vision on Economic Security
Moreover, 36% of older people with blindness and low vision report 14 or more days of poor physical health in the past 30 days compared to 16% of those without blindness and low vision. People with vision loss are almost three times as likely to report an annual income of less than $10,000, 10.6% compared to 3.6%. Lower socio-economic status has also been shown to represent a substantial barrier to access to care for those with vision loss – those with the most need for care. While people with or without blindness and low vision are as likely to have health insurance and a regular doctor, more people with blindness and low vision report having to delay health care because of cost, 11.5% compared to 4.2% of people without a visual impairment.

The Crucial Importance of Eye Health
Much can be done to lessen the effects of vision loss, for example, improved access and utilization of vision and eye health, including treatment for any age-related medical conditions that impact sight. Routine eye exams can also impact eye health, and individuals with significant vision loss may also benefit from a low vision exam – a very different type of evaluation that addresses the impact of vision loss on daily activities.

Life-Changing Benefits of Vision Rehabilitation
Comprehensive vision rehabilitation services promote independence and are a central component of support for older people with blindness and low vision. A network of public and private agencies providing vision rehabilitation services addressing communication, activities of daily living, personal care, self-advocacy, travel and mobility skills, diabetes, and medication management, as well as access to assistive technology (e.g., smartphones, tablets, and computers). Services often include counseling, information, and referrals to community resources and support

Learn more about Vision Rehabilitation and the agencies that can provide vision rehabilitation services at VisionServe Alliance. Visit Time to Be Bold to locate vision rehabilitation services and added resources. Speak with someone at the APH hotline for support, obtain support strategies for everyday tasks, engage in remote discussion groups, and access free online material at APH Connect Center and VisionAware. The National Eye Institute also provides important Vision Rehabilitation information, including materials in Spanish and English. Learn more about the Big Data Project and the impact of blindness and low vision and see how the Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition addresses crucial issues impacting older adults facing blindness and vision loss.

For more information, contact:

Jason Eckert
Vice President & COO
VisionServe Alliance