About Providence

Elders Eye Health Initiative

Research suggests that there is a high incidence of vision impairment in elders living in Vancouver. By the age of 65, one in nine Canadians will have a visual impairment that can't be corrected with ordinary lenses. This number increases to one in four by the age of 75. However, it is estimated that at least half of this vision loss can be improved and one quarter is preventable. Vision impairment has dramatic consequences for elders - an Australian study found that the risk of a fall doubled, the risk of depression tripled, the risk of death doubled, and ease of social functioning halved.

The Centre for Healthy Aging at Providence, the Department of Ophthalmology at Providence Health Care and the BC-Yukon Division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind led the development of an Elders Eye Health Initiative to better understand and address these unmet needs


The principal focus of the initiative was to understand and document the eye health needs of long term care residents in Vancouver. In addition, residents identified with a need were referred to the appropriate services for treatment. Over 300 residents living at 7 different Vancouver facilities were tested.

An Australian study found that while 77% of 200 residents assessed were visually impaired, only 16% of these visually impaired residents were under care for this problem. Our research findings show that residential care populations of seniors in the Vancouver area have similar levels of low vision and blindness to populations tested in Australia, and the United States.

In response to these findings CHAP has taken a two-pronged approach to increasing the number of seniors in both the community and long term care that are having regular eye examinations.

Through a partnership with the British Columbia Association of Optometrists, CHAP has assisted residential care sites in setting up on-site visits from a mobile optometrist. For sites already offering this service, the focus of this initiative was increasing the number of residents that use the service. To encourage use an information package emphasizing the importance of regular eye exams was developed and distributed to residents and their families via each site’s Director of Care.

For community-dwelling seniors, CHAP worked closely with CNIB to develop an information session for seniors on vision care, which provides them with advice on how to recognize the onset of various forms of vision impairment and what they can do to delay or prevent this impairment. The sessions are currently being offered at senior’s centres throughout the Lower Mainland. To view the speaker’s presentation slides, please click here.