It was a kitchen caper enough to give most people nightmares. A woman in her mid-70s, who recently suffered vision loss, would enter her kitchen and each time emerge with black-and-blue marks. Diminished eyesight had stolen her ability to discern contrast between cabinets and the surrounding wall surfaces, explains Michael Honan, a clinical rehabilitation manager at Lighthouse International. In the glare of two bright windows, she continually bumped into doors that she was unable to see.
With the aging of the baby boom generation, this senior’s experience may soon be commonplace. Tara Cortes, president and CEO of Lighthouse, a vision services agency, points to several figures that suggest the U.S. is on the verge of a low-vision epidemic: Six million Americans are already affected with age-related macular degeneration, the primary cause of vision loss in the U.S, and as many as 15 million more are pre-symptomatic. In addition to age-related sight loss, 5.3 million adults suffer impaired vision caused by diabetic retinopathy—approximately one quarter of diagnosed diabetics—and the obesity epidemic promises to boost that showing.