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The growing burden of vision impairment (VI) among older people is a development challenge in Asian countries. This study aimed to understand older people’s views and experiences about the impact of VI and barriers to eye care to inform policies to address this challenge. We conducted 12 focus group discussions in 2013 with retired Tamil and Sinhala elders in Nuwara Eliya district, Sri Lanka (n = 107). Data were analysed thematically. Older people described the broad impacts VI has on their lives. They worry about becoming dependent. VI restricts their ability to contribute to their families and communities, access information, socialise, maintain their health, and earn. Barriers to eye care services include transport difficulties, costs of treatment, fear, lack of knowledge, waiting times, and health staff attitudes. Older people experience and fear the impacts of VI on their health and well-being. Eye health promotion and care services need strengthening and integration with the primary health care system to address the backlog and growing need among older people in an equitable way. Older people should be consulted about how to overcome the economic, social, and cultural barriers to access to eye care and to minimise the impact of VI. ABBREVIATIONS: FGDs: focus group discussions; GBD: global burden of disease; NCDs: non-communicable diseases; VI: vision impairment.
We would like to thank the elders of Walapane and Nuwara Eliya who participated in the focus group discussions, and the Program Officers of Program partners, PALM Foundation, Sarvodaya, Plantation Human Development Trust, and Berendina. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution to this work of the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program received by the Burnet Institute.