Ontario is aging. It’s a fact.

The number of seniors aged 65 and over in Ontario is expected to more than double, from 16.4% or 2.3 million people in 2016, to 4.6 million or 25%, by 2041. As the Canadian population ages, the prevalence in vision loss is expected to increase.

Diabetes – a non-age-related disease – is also a major underlying cause of vision loss. Where 1.5 million people or 10.2% of the population in Ontario lived with diabetes in 2015, that number is expected to more than double by 2025 to 2.3 million or 13.4% of the Ontario population.

The Ontario provincial government is aware of the “Gathering Storm” – there are many reports and statements that address this concern and include recommendations. In 2011 the CNIB and Canadian Ophthalmological Society commissioned a report summarizing the cost of vision loss in Canada which is billions of dollars.

In 2013 the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care established a task force to conduct a thorough review of ophthalmology services in Ontario including an assessment of the future patient needs.

Unfortunately, many of the reports’ recommendations have not been implemented. As a result, wait times for eye procedures have actually increased since the government started monitoring them five years ago.

The truth is, up to 75% of vision loss can be prevented or treated, particularly if acted upon early enough. Early detection through regular eye exams, as well as timely access to an ophthalmologist are critically important to ensure that a potentially dangerous eye condition can be prevented from causing permanent vision loss.

Looking towards the future, the challenges we face today will grow to become even more difficult. Vision problems and age-related eye diseases are intimately related as Ontario’s population ages at a rapid rate. The healthcare system’s responsibility to enable access to quality health and vision care will become increasingly important. EPSO has and will continue to apply pressure to Ontario’s provincial government to address these concerns.