Canadian seniors are finding it too expensive to maintain a regular eye exam schedule. A new Specsavers survey, conducted by Leger, found that despite provincial insurance coverage for seniors, 41 percent of Canadian seniors are missing their annual eye exam. 

The survey found that the cost of eyewear remains a barrier for many seniors, causing them to delay their exams, creating concern among eyecare providers. Missed exams can lead to undiagnosed eye conditions that can cause significant damage to vision, the survey said.

"Eye exams are not just about getting a new prescription for glasses. Optometrists are equipped to detect the earliest signs of eye diseases," said Naomi Barber, clinical services director at Specsavers. "The advice an optometrist gives can be anything from helping with daily eye discomforts to the detection of eye diseases to ensuring that new glasses work for an individual's daily tasks. All of these are important for the preservation of quality of life through better sight."

Half of Canadian seniors do not have vision health benefits and one in four have skipped or delayed updating their eyewear prescriptions due to financial barriers, putting seniors' vision at risk, according to the survey.

Subsequent health complications due to these risks are one of the major drivers behind the need for seniors to get regular eye exams. According to Specsavers, one-in-five seniors do not know their family's eye health history and may not be aware of their increased risk of vision-threatening diseases, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

"The number of Canadians living with vision loss is growing every day, and it's critical that we continue to bring to light the factors that may be putting one's vision at risk," said Jim Tokos, national president of the Canadian Council of the Blind. "Diagnosing conditions early is integral to the conservation of sight, and it's incomprehensible that someone should have to delay potentially sight-saving treatment due to financial concerns."

Specsavers partners with a network of participating independent optometrists who conduct eye exams, available at no cost to seniors. These exams always include optical coherence tomography (OCT), which creates a 3D eye scan that helps optometrists detect sight-threatening diseases at the earliest point of detection. 

According to The Canadian Council of the Blind and Fighting Blindness Canada, 75 percent of vision loss is preventable and treatable, emphasizing the importance of regular eye exams.

"We believe that Canadian seniors deserve better. Specsavers has a mission to help change the lives of Canadians through better sight," said Bill Moir, managing director of Specsavers Canada. "It is important to break down the barriers to access eyecare and eyewear in Canada so that seniors are coming in for important eye exams."

According to Specsavers, many in the industry are calling for a national strategy for eyecare, through the proposed Bill C-284, to ensure better health outcomes for Canadians. This is particularly important for senior populations, who are more likely to be diagnosed with eye diseases such as glaucoma and AMD.

"A national eyecare strategy is the next important step in making health care accessible and affordable for all Canadians, and it aligns strongly with Specsavers own vision of making eyecare and eyewear accessible to all," Moir said. "Financially, eye exams and eyewear purchases go hand-in-hand. Recognizing the cost barrier for eyewear is important, particularly for our senior population, many of whom are on a fixed income."