Tips for Coping With Vision Loss
Many normal, age-related problems affecting vision can be addressed with practical solutions, such as extra lighting for reading recipes or tinkering with garage projects.
In fact, after about age 60, you may find you need additional illumination for most tasks performed indoors or in darker conditions outdoors. This is because your pupil no longer opens as widely as it once did to allow light to enter. This means less light reaches your retina where vision processing occurs, reducing your ability to see clearly.
To help offset this problem, you might consider extra steps such as:
Age-related vision changes can make everyday tasks more difficult.
- Installing task lighting underneath kitchen cabinets or above stoves to help illuminate work areas.
- Making sure you have enough lighting to brighten work surfaces in your garage, sewing room or other areas where you need to see fine details.
- Asking your employer to install additional lighting, if needed, at your workplace.
Also, make sure you have regular eye exams that include critical tests for older eyes to rule out potentially serious age-related eye diseases that may affect your vision. Your eye doctor also can advise you about the best vision correction options to reduce the effects of normal age-related declines in near vision, color vision and contrast sensitivity.
Cataracts, which are very common in the over 60 age group, also can cause cloudy or hazy vision. But cataracts usually are easily remedied with surgery that removes the eye's cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial one.
What Can You Do About Permanent Vision Loss?
Lenses like these can magnify fine print.
Many low vision devices are available for people with permanent vision loss, to assist them with daily living challenges.
These devices include:
- Strong magnifying lenses with extra illumination, for reading and other near vision work.
- Audio tapes, specially adapted computer or television screens, and telescopes.
- Lens filters and shields to reduce glare.
Vision Loss and the Elderly
A disturbing trend noted in recent years has been an increased tendency in our society to overlook or neglect the vision correction needs of elderly citizens, including those living in nursing homes.
As an example, researchers say almost one third of older Americans diagnosed with glaucoma receive no treatment for this potentially blinding eye disease.*
Other studies have found that simply referring older individuals for cataract surgery at the appropriate time creates improved vision that significantly reduces the possibility of falling.**
Consequences of delaying vision correction or needed treatment, especially in elderly people, can be severe. Uncorrected vision problems can contribute to falls that seriously injure seniors and greatly reduce their confidence in their ability to live independently.
Advocates may be needed for older people who require vision correction or treatment.
Consider these findings:
- One study, reported in the March 2007 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, found that people with untreated glaucoma were six times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision and three times more likely to have a potentially serious fall.
- In August 2005, the journal Neurologic Clinics reported that at least 30 percent of older individuals fall at least once annually. Of those who fall, 10 percent experience a fracture or other serious injury. In fact, falling and related injuries are directly responsible for 40 percent of admissions to nursing homes.
- The journal Age and Ageing reported in September 2006 that wearing eyeglasses with multifocal lenses may increase the risk of falls among older adults because the near-vision segment of the lenses impairs the ability to see feet clearly without first lowering the head.
According to the researchers, it may be a good idea for seniors to wear glasses with single vision lenses when walking and going up and down stairs.
If you have older relatives or friends living alone or in a nursing home, consider serving as their advocate to make sure they receive appropriate vision care and treatment of age-related eye diseases to maximize their quality of life.
**The consequences of waiting for cataract surgery: a systematic review. CMAJ (Journal of the Canadian Medical Association). April 2007.
[Page updated December 2013]