As we grow older our eyesight will gradually change and degrade. Sometimes the change can be so gradual that we don’t even notice it until one day we suddenly realise that we can’t read the road signs we once could, or we have to strain our eyes to read the newspaper. Unfortunately this is a fact of life and something we need to accept as part of the ageing process. However, there are things we can do to minimize these changes and steps we can take to ensure that we are still able to lead a full life.
Almost everyone over the age of sixty-five will need to wear glasses, but choosing the right lenses to suit you is essential to increasing your chances of maintaining your eyesight for as long as possible. It is always recommended that you choose your glasses with the help of an optometrist (optician) in order to find the most suitable pair as choosing the wrong ones can lead to extra strain being put on your eyes. An optometrist will be able to advise you on which lenses you need as well as which frames may be most suitable for you. Whichever type of glasses you choose it’s important to keep them clean and free from scratches. Keep them in a protective case when you’re not using them and never place the lenses directly onto surfaces.
An eye test is not just used to see what kind of glasses you need; it is also an important check on the health of your eyes. Eye diseases can usually be detected in their early stages, even before you become aware of any accompanying symptoms, and early treatment is crucial to preventing any further damage to your vision. It is important to have your eyes routinely tested at least once every two years and you should book an appointment straight away if you notice any significant changes to your vision. If your eye test shows any conditions that need treatment you will be referred to a specialist who can diagnose and treat the problem.
Adequate lighting is an important part of being able to use our eyesight to its maximum potential. At the age of forty we need twice as much light to be able to see things properly as we did when we were twenty. At the age of sixty we need three times as much. Therefore it is essential that we maximise the amount of light we have. Natural daylight is an important source but a large amount of this can be lost through dirty windows and obstructive window coverings. Ensure that you keep your windows and any net curtains clean. Open curtains and blinds as wide as possible and paint walls and window frames in light colours. You should also make sure you have good electric lighting particularly in places that could be dangerous such as at the top of stairs.
Some people develop severe eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma which can seriously impair sight. There are many optical aids available to help those with serious sight loss. For example, special handheld magnifiers can help with tasks such as reading, or they can be attached to a stand so that you have both hands free while still being able to see through the magnifier. Large-faced watches and clocks, magnification screens for your computer monitor, and email reading software are just a few of the things that may help you. Contact your nearest disability centre or specialist low vision clinic to speak to someone who can help you choose the aids that will help you live a more normal life. They may also be able to put you in touch with a rehabilitation worker who can show you how to make the most out of your visual aids and offer practical advice on how to make your daily life easier and more fulfilling. Large print books, talking books and newspapers, and even some large print games such as monopoly and scrabble are also available through most libraries.
People with serious sight loss may also be able to claim some welfare benefits and register with their local council as disabled, which will entitle you to certain discounts and benefits.