Clear Vision, Living Independently Top Priorities for Older Americans
Fluctuations in vision are often one of the first health changes adults notice as they get older. Although these changes can be bothersome, even more troubling problems could be lurking beneath the surface and cause vision loss. According to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2015 American Eye-Q® survey, the inability to live independently would concern older consumers the most if they developed serious vision problems.
In observance of Healthy Aging® Month in September, the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSOP) offers several tips to help older adults safeguard their vision.
Schedule a yearly eye exam
Comprehensive eye exams by a doctor of optometry are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision, and the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease, and determine the need for glasses or contact lenses.
Common eye conditions in older adults that can be detected through a comprehensive eye examination include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and dry eye. The number of adults with these eye conditions will increase as the population of older adults grows—according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 estimates, 72 million Americans are expected to be over the age of 65 by 2030 (compared with 39.6 million Americans in 2009).
“Many eye conditions develop without any warning signs or symptoms, so it’s important to visit a doctor of optometry every year to ensure your eyes are healthy,” said Dr. Harmer, optometric physician and president of the NJSOP. “Early diagnosis and treatment of serious eye diseases and disorders is critical and can often prevent loss of vision.”
Focus on healthy lifestyle choices
Following basic healthy habits can help ward off eye diseases and maintain existing eyesight. One of the essential building blocks of a person’s overall health is diet. Enjoying a diet rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin can improve eye health—these can be found in spinach and other green, leafy vegetables, as well as eggs. Other “power foods” for the eyes include fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C and fish containing Omega 3 essential fatty acids, such as salmon. Also, an optometrist can discuss vitamin therapy options for patients experiencing vision problems and for preventive treatment.
“Not only can a healthy diet improve your eye health, but not smoking, monitoring blood pressure levels, exercising regularly and wearing proper sunglasses to protect eyes from UV rays can all play a role in preserving eyesight and eye health,” said Dr. Harmer.
Adapt your surroundings and seek help from a doctor of optometry
According to the 2015 American Eye-Q® survey, 75 percent of Americans age 55 and older have experienced vision problems. It’s especially important for older adults to visit their doctor of optometry to ensure their vision is good to prevent falls and driving accidents.
Older adults can ease the stress on their eyes by making some simple changes:
- Stay safe while driving: Wear quality sunglasses for daytime driving and use anti-reflective lenses to reduce headlight glare. Limit driving at dusk, dawn or at night if seeing under low light is difficult. Use extra caution at intersections and reduce speed.
- Use contrasting colors: Define essential objects in your home, such as light switches and telephones, with different colors so they can be spotted quickly and easily.
- Give the eyes a boost: Install clocks, thermometers and timers with large block letters. Magnifying glasses can also be used for reading when larger print is not available. Text size on the screen of smartphones and tablets can also be increased.
People dealing with eye disease and vision loss can also seek rehabilitative services from a doctor of optometry. These services can teach patients a variety of techniques to allow them to perform daily activities with their remaining vision and help them regain their independence.
Maintaining annual eye exams, or more frequently if recommended by an eye doctor, provides the best protection for preventing the onset of eye diseases and allows adults to continue leading active and productive lifestyles as they age. To find a doctor of optometry near you access our doctor locator, here.
About the survey:
The 10th annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From February 19-March 4, 2015, PSB conducted 1,000 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of the U.S. general population. (Margin of error is plus or minus 3.10 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.)