Vision 2050… A Mid-century View

How will the vision picture look in 30 years? Here’s a glance at what’s ahead in terms of an aging patient base and the resulting changes in vision care needs by the year 2050.

Tip: Underscore the importance of regular exams to all patients, especially Hispanics, who may see an almost six-fold increase in AMD between 2010 and 2050.

20%of Americans will be 65 or over by the middle of this century



Talk about a game changer. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the average life expectancy in this country is 78.8 years. By 2050, that may rise to 88 years. And, according to Pew Research Center, 20% of Americans will be 65 or older by then, and some 400,000 people will be at least 100 years of age.



According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the number of patients affected by age-related macular degeneration will double by 2050. That represents an increase from 2.07 million Americans in 2010 to 5.44 million people in 2050. Though most new AMD cases will continue to be seen in White Americans, Hispanics will experience the greatest increase–an almost six-fold rise in the number of expected cases, reports the NIH. This is important information to share with that segment of your patient base.



Though the incidence of AMD is increasing, that’s mostly due to the dramatic rise in the senior population in the U.S. When looked at another way–by the percentage of Americans in each generation—a University of Wisconsin-Madison study finds that rates are actually decreasing from generation to generation. That research, as reported in the Dec. 2017 issue of JAMA Ophthalmology, is based on analyses of the landmark Beaver Dam Eye Study and Offspring Study. In this longitudinal cohort study, reports the Journal, “The risk for AMD has actually declined by 60% for each successive generation.” In other words, though their raw numbers are greater, Baby Boomers, as a percentage of the population, are actually less likely to develop AMD than were the Silent or Greatest generations. Add that to improved care, and, as the research reports, “Aging Boomers may actually experience better retinal health at older ages than previous generations.” And the generations that follow will do even better.



Though advances in treatment will change the AMD picture by delaying onset and decreasing impact, vision rehabilitation services will become increasingly important. According to Bhavani Iyer, O.D., chairman of the AOA’s Vision Rehabilitation Committee: “Vision rehabilitation doctors have always known the high value of the services they provide. However, it has been difficult to get more doctors to go into this field due to chair time and issues of staying profitable as a practice.” Hopefully, this rising demand will change all that.


What trends do you see in your practice? Are AMD numbers increasing? Tell us and share in the Facebook conversation here.

Erinn Morgan