Eye health of Britain’s ageing workforce at risk

The record number of older people in employment in Britain[1] are being urged by a Specsavers and RNIB campaign to make their eye health a priority as pension entitlement ages increase.

Office for National Statistics figures record more than 1.2 million Brits over the age of 65 working[2], with a further 500,000 expected to be in employment by 2030[3]. Additionally, RNIB data shows that the over-65s are almost twice as likely to develop an eye health condition[4], such as glaucoma or cataracts, that could significantly hinder their ability to do their job effectively. However, RNIB and Specsavers research shows that one in four people are not having an eye test every two years[5].  

Optometrist of more than 50 years Doug Perkins, 75, jointly runs Specsavers and is still passionately involved in driving the optical industry forward. He adds: ‘Britain’s baby boomers are finding a new lease of life in the workplace. I know how important it is to keep healthy as the years advance, which of course includes regular eye tests’.

To encourage this ageing workforce to prioritise their eye health and to help support National Eye Health Week (24-30 September) a new multi-million-pound marketing campaign has launched. ‘Don’t Lose the Picture’ – delivers the stark message that sight loss could leave you relying on a bland summary of a vivid image, instead of enjoying the picture in all its colour and meaning.

RNIB Interim CEO, Eliot Lyne, said: ‘With the right support, people with sight loss can continue working, and if you’re an employer, RNIB and other organisations can help you to properly support a member of staff who is losing their sight.

‘Advances in technology mean that blind and partially sighted people can now overcome many of the barriers to work that they have faced in the past, and government schemes, like Access to Work, mean that many of the costs can be met.’

According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eye Health and Visual Impairment’s See the Light report[6], which determined that more needs to be done to make eye health a priority, the number of people in the UK that will be affected by sight loss is predicted to increase by more than 10% by 2020[7], rising to more than 40% by 2030, due largely to our ageing demographic.

The cost this is having on the economy is also continuing to increase – having risen from £22 billion in 2008 to £28 billion in 2013, with predictions it could reach £30.8 billion by 2020.[8]

  • 25% of people are not having an eye test every two years as recommended by the College of Optometrists
  • The number of people aged 65+ in employment in the UK in 2018 is 1,224,000.
  • The rate of employment of people aged 65+ in 2018 is 10.4% – estimates show there will be 1,712,000 people aged 65+ in employment by 2030 – a change of 488,000.
  • Sight is the nation’s most precious sense by far; 10 times more people (78% of people) said sight was the sense they fear losing most compared to the next most popular sense, smell (8%), followed by hearing (7%).
  • Almost a quarter of people are ignoring the first signs of sight loss; despite complaining of not being able to see properly 23% of people have not visited an optician
  • More than 80% of people are not aware that an optician can spot the early signs of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the UK
  • People put their boiler before their eye health; half of UK adults have their boiler serviced once a year, over a third renew their mobile phone contract every two years, while 50% of UK adults last had their eyes tested more than a year ago or never
  • Research suggests Brits check their teeth more often than their eyes; 42% visit the dentist once every six months (equating to four times over twice years) while 25% of UK adults haven’t had an eye test in the past two years or at all


  1. Office for National Statistics (2018) Employment rate 65 + People.
  2. Office for National Statistics (2018) UK labour market: June 2018.
  3. Office for Budget Responsibility (2014) Fiscal Sustainability Report: employment rates for 60 to 74-year-olds
  4. RNIB data. The older you are, the greater your chances of developing an eye condition that could threaten your sight. The rate of sight loss among people aged 65-69 is 87% higher compared to people aged 60-64 years; 200 cases per 100k population, compared to 107 cases.
  5. Specsavers and RNIB State of the National Eye Health report 2017 with YouGov
  6. See the light: Improving capacity in NHS eye care in England. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment, June 2018
  7. Increase is based on 2013 figures
  8. Based on the number of people in the UK that will be affected by sight loss predicted to increase by more than 10% by 2020

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