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$30 million needed for older Australians, MDFA report

Older Australians need better access to technologies and support for vision-related problems according to a report from the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).

The report, produced in collaboration with The George Institute for Global Health, stated that while there are existing programs to improve living conditions for those with vision problems and blindness, the costs for access to these support mechanisms provide an obstacle, especially the elderly.

Released on January 30 and entitled Low Vision, quality of life and independence: A review of the evidence on aids ad technologies the report highlights the reasons behind the problem, which affects around 100,000 older Australians with vision-impairment or blindness.

Julie Heraghty, MDFA CEO
Julie Heraghty, MDFA CEO

It's based on collective data from Australian government and private institutions and highlighted the barriers that prevent older citizens from availing much-needed support and technologies to alleviate their plight from vision-impairment or blindness.

Ms Julie Heraghty, CEO of MDFA, said that "low vision aids ranging from a simple magnifier or specialised lighting, through to adaptive technology, can transform the lives of people with sight loss, helping them to live to fulfil, independent lives.

"Currently, the vast majority of people in Australia with sight loss have great difficulty affording or accessing these aids. This needs to change.".

Julie Heraghty, MDFA CEO
The vast majority of people in Australia with sight loss have great difficulty affording or accessing these aids. This needs to change.
Ms Julie Heraghty, CEO of MDFA

To address the situation the MDFA recommends increased investment in research and development of vision-related technologies, establish a nationally-funded program to enhance existing government mechanisms and subsidy in private health insurance coverage.

Other factors involved are inadequate consumer information and knowledge related to support services, inadequate referral pathways and the lack of co-management activity between licensed practitioners and service providers.

Heraghty pointed out that, "while successive governments are to be commended for subsidising registered sight-saving drugs to avoid vision loss, unfortunately, many older Australians who are vision impaired or blind, are repeatedly missing out on the support they most need - low vision aids and technologies".

The MDFA estimates the initial cost of a federally funded program to be around $30 million per year with a suggested annual allowance of between $667 and $2,400 per person per annum, depending on vision assessment.


Heraghty added that these recommendations are "financially achievable" and that the MDFA will urge the Minister for Health to also focus on many older Australians who are not covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to entitle them with the same level of support.


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