Britain’s ageing workforce at eye health risk

National eye health week 24 to 30 September

Eye testThe record number of older people in employment[1] are being urged to make their eye health a priority as pension entitlement ages increase.

Ageing working population

Official figures show that there are now more than 1.2 million working Brits over the age of 65[2], with a further 500,000 expected to be in employment by 2030[3], as people continue to live longer and healthier lives.

As 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, Specsavers and sight loss charity, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), are campaigning to urge Britain’s ageing workforce to take their eye health seriously.

Eye condition’s effect on career of Hairy Biker

With research showing that one in four people are not having an eye test every two years[5], as recommended by the College of Optometrists, celebrity chef and Hairy Bikers star Dave Myers, 61, is backing the campaign ahead of National Eye Health Week (24-30 September) after discovering that he had a serious eye condition that could have had a huge impact on his career.

Dave says: ‘I was shocked when I found out that I’d developed glaucoma when I was just 51. Thankfully it was spotted during a routine eye test but if it had gone unnoticed, I could have gone blind, and that would have had a huge impact on how I do the job I love so much.

‘Like so many people, my career is my passion and it’s so hard to be able to imagine doing all the things I love to do if I couldn’t see, whether it’s riding my bike, reading an autocue or preparing ingredients. The thought that I could have lost my sight is really scary. As we get older lots of things need closer attention, not least our eyes.’

Support for employees and employers

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.’

The economic effects of sight loss

The See the Light report[6] from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eye Health and Visual Impairment determined that more needs to be done to make eye health a priority. According to the report, 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.

Research estimates that the total cost of sight loss to our economy is in the region of £28 billion a year[8] which is projected to increase to £30.8 billion by 2020[9].

Doug Perkins, Specsavers founder, still working at 75 years

Specsavers founder Doug Perkins, 75, an optometrist of more than 50 years and who co-runs the joint-venture family business, wholeheartedly agrees: ‘More needs to be done to make eye health a priority in the UK. Britain’s baby boomers are finding a new lease of life in the workplace. However, ageing can come hand-in-hand with various ailments that, if left untreated, could cause sight loss.

‘An eye test can help detect conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. It also provides a window on wider health, helping spot indicators of other issues, such as diabetes, that could hinder older people from working as long or as effectively as they might want to.’

Simple solutions

Specsavers Corporate Eyecare offers eVouchers as a simple and cost-effective way for employers to provide workplace eye care. eVouchers can be purchased and distributed online, as required, so the employer can easily manage the provision and cost. Available specifically for requirements like DSE, Driver, and Safety eye care, the eVouchers enable employers to effectively meet all health, safety and wellbeing responsibilities.

For more information eye care in the workplace, visit



  • 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 two 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] Specsavers and RNIB State of the National Eye Health report 2017 with YouGov

[9] Based on projected 10% sight loss prevalence in UK, applied to 2020 UK population figures (ONS)