Department of Human Services

Helping Older Adults See Clearly

St. Louis Area Agency on Aging's Vision Care Program

March 1, 2013 | 2 min reading time


There are many chronic health conditions that contribute to poor health in the City ofSt. Louis. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can lead to other chronic conditions and symptoms.  To help promote healthier aging and empower older adults through lifestyle and behavioral changes, the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging (SLAAA) provides disease prevention and health promotion services, including a Vision Care Program.

In partnership with the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and the Lions Club of District 26-M2 (Lions Club), the Vision Care Program consists of a Mobile Eye Van that visits various senior centers and senior residential living centers.  Each patient receives a comprehensive, dilated examination and eye glasses, if necessary.  Due to the complexity of continuing medical conditions, about 20% of the patients are referred to physicians and specialists.  All patients are encouraged to seek the care of another eye doctor on an annual basis.

In August 2012, the Mobile Eye Van visited Latter Glory Manor Apartments and treated 14 patients, ages ranging from 63 to 102, who had the most difficulty leaving their apartments.  This task could not have been accomplished without the teamwork of a UMSL faculty member who is a certified and licensed optometrist, four UMSL optometry interns, and the Lions Club volunteers.  Each member of the team is responsible for leading the interns, examining the patients, and helping the patients with registration and navigation to the Mobile Eye Van, respectively.

In January 2013, the Mobile Eye Van visited Senior Living at Renaissance Place. Although the van was at this site in 2009, 5 of the 12 patients were referred to a physician and specialist.  Two of referred patients had dangerous health conditions such as severe high blood pressure, untreated glaucoma, and cataracts.

The coordination of each site visit requires the efforts of more than ten individuals to arrange and conduct eye examinations for about 12-14 patients.  SLAAA plays a major role in scheduling each site visit, preparing the sites prior to the visit, and verifying the eligibility of each candidate.  Currently, about 100 older adults have received an eye exam with eye glasses since July 2012.

As individuals advance in age, the risk of vision loss and blinding disorders increases. Although many eye conditions are common in older adults as they age, some blindness and low vision may be prevented or treated with an annual eye exam.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an older adult aged 65 and older to have their eyes examined every 1 to 2 years. Individuals with vision loss can also experience grief, anxiety, isolation, and depression as their quality of life can be determined by their ability to see.

To learn more about the Vision Care Program or other health services for seniors and persons with disabilities, please contact the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging at (314) 657-1670

References: University of Missouri-St.Louis; National Eye Health Education Program

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