Ageing and Eyes

Tips for coping with vision loss

older woman using laptop
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Many age-related eye changes that affect vision can be addressed with practical solutions.

For example, adding a bit of extra lighting can help with activities such as reading recipes or tinkering with the latest project in your shed.

This is because your pupil no longer opens as widely as it once did to allow adequate light to reach your retina. Also the lens inside the eye gradually yellows with age, and this also reduces the amount of light reaching the back of the eye.

To help offset this problem, you might consider:

  • Installing task lighting underneath kitchen cabinets or above your desk 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 optician can also advise you about the best vision correction options to reduce the effects of normal age-related declines in near vision, colour vision and contrast sensitivity.

Age-related cataracts can also cause cloudy or hazy vision. Vision loss from cataracts can be restored with surgery that removes the eye's cloudy lens

and replaces it with a clear intraocular lens (IOL).

What can you do about permanent vision loss?

Magnifying glass over a book

Lenses like these can magnify fine print.

Unfortunately, age-related eye diseases — including glaucoma, advanced macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy — can cause permanent vision loss in many older people.

Many low vision devices can help people with permanent vision loss overcome daily living challenges.

These devices include:

  • Strong magnifying lenses with extra illumination for reading and other near vision work
  • Specially adapted computer or television screens
  • Lens filters and shields to reduce glare

Also, many books, magazines and newspapers are available in large print format so you can continue to enjoy reading.

Tips for coping with vision loss

Permanent vision loss doesn't mean you can no longer have an active, rewarding and fulfilling life. 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 organisations 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 is a thorough evaluation of the current lighting in and around the house or flat. 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.

Replace dim or harsh lighting with long-lasting, energy efficient LED bulbs. Choose bulbs that emit a "warm white" or "soft white" light spectrum (check the label for a colour 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 glasses 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 pavement) clearly without first lowering your head.

Ask your optician if you are wearing the best style of glasses lenses for your condition and needs.

A low vision specialist can also 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 shops, doctor appointments, etc., it's a good idea to also see if there are public transport options that will work for you in the event you no longer can see well enough to drive safely. In some cases, charitable organisations provide transport services for the visually disabled.

Peer support is very beneficial for anyone dealing with significant permanent vision loss. Seek out organisations 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 optician 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.

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