Copyright 2014 The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Inc. PURPOSE: We tested the hypothesis that the variation of peripapillary scleral structural stiffness with age is different in donors of European (ED) and African (AD) descent.METHODS: Posterior scleral shells from normal eyes from donors of European (n = 20 pairs; previously reported) and African (n = 9 pairs) descent aged 0 and 90 years old were inflation tested within 48 hours post mortem. Scleral shells were pressurized from 5 to 45 mm Hg and the full-field, 3-dimensional (3D) deformation of the outer surface was recorded at submicrometric accuracy using speckle interferometry (ESPI). Mean maximum principal (tensile) strain of the peripapillary and midperipheral regions surrounding the optic nerve head (ONH) were fit using a functional mixed effects model that accounts for intradonor variability, same-race correlation, and spatial autocorrelation to estimate the effect of race on the age-related changes in mechanical scleral strain.RESULTS: Mechanical tensile strain significantly decreased with age in the peripapillary sclera in the African and European descent groups (P < 0.001), but the age-related stiffening was significantly greater in the African descent group (P < 0.05). Maximum principal strain in the peripapillary sclera was significantly higher than in the midperipheral sclera for both ethnic groups.CONCLUSIONS: The sclera surrounding the ONH stiffens more rapidly with age in the African descent group compared to the European group. Stiffening of the peripapillary sclera with age may be related to the higher prevalence of glaucoma in the elderly and persons of African descent.