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.
Several books, magazines and newspapers also are available in large print format so you can continue to enjoy reading.
Coping With Vision Loss: Tips
Permanent vision loss doesn't mean you can no longer can have an active, rewarding and fulfilling live. But it does mean you should take extra precautions to be safe in your surroundings and seek assistance from available resources for the visually impaired to get the most from the vision you have.
Many organizations and agencies that provide low vision services offer a service where a trained person comes to your home and evaluates whether there are unnecessary hazards that might increase the risk of an injury for someone with significant vision loss.
Examples of this might be clutter or poor furniture placement that impede clear walking paths between rooms, dark or otherwise dangerous stairwells, and partially obstructed doorways.
Key to a home assessment of this type also is a thorough evaluation of the current lighting in and around the house, condo or apartment. Often increasing the number and brightness of lamps and overhead lighting in a home can make a significant difference in both the safety and state of mind of a person with vision loss.
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Replace fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs with long-lasting, energy efficient LED bulbs, and choose bulbs that emit a "warm white" or "soft white" light spectrum (check the label for a color temperature of 2700 degrees K). These bulbs emit less blue light and tend to be more comforting on the eyes and cause less glare.
Routine eye exams are essential to make sure you are wearing the best vision correction possible. Also, studies have shown that wearing eyeglasses with single vision lenses rather than multifocal lenses when walking may decrease the risk of falls among older adults. This is because single vision lenses have no near-vision segment that could impair your ability to see your feet (and the floor, ground or sidewalk) clearly without first lowering your head. Ask your eye doctor if you are wearing the best style of eyeglass lenses for your condition and needs.
A low vision specialist also can assess whether simple changes such as the use of special magnifiers and large-print books, playing cards, labels, etc., can help a person better cope with their visual disability.
Developing a transportation plan is another key factor in coping with vision loss. While many people are fortunate and have family and friends that can drive them to the grocery store, doctor appointments, etc., it's a good idea to also see if there are public transportation options that will work for you in the event you no longer can see well enough to drive safely. In some cases, charitable organizations provide transportation services for the visually disabled.
Peer support is very beneficial for anyone dealing with significant permanent vision loss. Seek out organizations in your community where you can meet, build friendships, and share experiences with other people with vision loss who know what you're going through. In addition to getting the comfort of knowing you are not alone in coping with vision loss, these relationships will help you learn additional tips and techniques to help you live independently with low vision.
Finally, if you think you or a family member with vision loss could benefit from additional emotional support, discuss this with your eye doctor or low vision specialist and ask to be referred to a licensed psychologist or therapist who has experience helping people cope with vision loss and other disabilities.
Marilyn Haddrill also contributed to this article.
[Page updated January 2016]