Healthy ageing

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03.Spectacles and ageing


The lens of the eye changes its length or shape to focus on smaller objects, or objects that get closer or farther away. As we age the elasticity is slowly lost and there’s a gradual decrease in the ability of the eye to focus on nearby objects. In many people this is manifested at around the age of 45, when you may start holding small print items further and further away in order to focus on them – so-called “long arm syndrome”! 

Reading glasses may help, and it’s worth a visit to the optometrist for a general eye check up, including screening for glaucoma. While they may not be as good quality as prescription lenses, magnifying glasses available from pharmacies and variety stores may do the job for very little cost. However, because they’re not subject to the same level of quality control as prescription glasses, there may be flaws which can affect your vision. 

When Which?, our UK counterparts, tested some purchased from a variety of shops, they found problems with half of them, mainly to do with uneven lens centres. This could cause eye strain or double vision. They recommend consumers try reading with them for a few minutes before buying them – if they’re clear and comfortable they’re probably OK.

Bifocals and increased risk of falls

Another issue to be aware of with spectacles is the risk of falls when wearing bifocals or multifocals, where the lower part of the lens is for reading and the upper part for distance vision. A typical scenario is someone looking down as they’re walking down stairs and misjudging the step because it’s out of focus when they’re looking through the reading part of the lens. One solution is to have a pair of multifocals for around the home, and a set of single-focal distance glasses for when you're out and about.


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