Our perspectives on life change as we age, and so does our vision. For years, optometrists have emphasized the significance of eye care for seniors, which couldn’t be more correct.
Regular, proper eye care is a part of recommended wellness checkups for seniors, allowing seniors to monitor and guard their vision against inevitable structural changes that come with old age. With that in mind, let’s discuss the importance of senior eye care and some tips to keep our seniors’ vision healthy despite aging.
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The Importance of Senior Eye Care
It is always essential to ensure healthy vision at any age. However, practicing eye care at older ages seems more vital than ever since aging can make seniors’ eyes more delicate, putting them at increased risk of developing multiple vision problems. This includes cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome, to name a few.
One of the most concerning aspects of senior eye care is that age-related eye conditions can go under the radar for several years, making it more challenging to take prompt action before they worsen.
As a result, routine eye exams are vital since these exams help detect, treat, and even prevent vision-threatening problems before they have a chance to cause permanent changes. In some cases, an eye exam can help doctors identify underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, by inspecting blood vessels in the eyes.
When it comes to taking good care of your parents and older family members, it’s recommended that they should have a comprehensive eye examination every 2-3 years and once per year for those above 65. The exam usually includes the following tests:
- Visual field
- Eye pressures
- Dilated retinal examination
- Slit lamp
How Does Aging Change the Eyes?
The body is subject to many physical changes as we age, and the eyes are no exception. More than anything, aging is believed to take a toll on our vision, causing millions of seniors to encounter a range of age-related vision impairments as soon as they hit their mid-40s.
Around this time, many adults may experience slight vision changes where they may need to move away to see things or prints more clearly. This is called presbyopia – a prevalent age-related condition among seniors between the ages of 41 and 60 caused by less flexible eye lenses.
So how does aging change the eyes? Here are some vision changes that your parents and older family members should be aware of.
- Trouble reading prints or books
- Reduced tear production
- Swollen eyes
- Floaters in the vision field
- Flashes of light
- Poor quality of sleep
- Glare sensitivity
- Decreases in color perception
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Common Age-Related Vision Impairments
Below are some of the most common age-related vision problems that may come with age.
If your parents start complaining that they are unable to see things clearly, they may be developing cataracts. A cataract results from a clouding of the eye lens, making seniors’ vision foggy and cloudy, almost like their vision is blocked by frosted glass.
Although most people assume seniors are at a higher risk of having cataracts, the condition can sometimes be present at birth. Initially, cataracts only affect a small portion of the eye, so most seniors hardly pay attention to the condition. If left untreated, the cataract can slowly turn brown and grow larger to the point where it may completely impair vision.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is another leading cause contributing to irreversible vision loss in seniors aged 50 and older.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet AMD. The condition is known to take a toll on the central part of the retina called the macula, resulting in wavy and blurred vision. Over time, age-related macular degeneration may lead to total blindness.
Despite no cure, seniors can take control of their eye health and prevent the development of AMD with a combination of healthy lifestyle habits and nutritional supplements.
Glaucoma is not a single-eye disease but a collection of conditions that adversely affect the optic nerve located at the back of the eyes. Despite the lack of solid evidence regarding the root of the disease, health experts believe that abnormal pressure accumulation brought by improperly drained-out fluid in the eye may be associated with glaucoma.
Glaucoma is divided into three different types: open-angle, acute angle-closure, and normal-tension glaucoma. It’s important to note that glaucoma is almost asymptomatic, and seniors can only be aware of the disease until it has progressed to the point where it could cause blindness.
With age, the retina can detach from the underlying support at the back of the eyes more easily due to vitreous shrinkage. Characteristically, the vitreous is a clear, gel-like substance made up of microscopic fibers and nutrients that allows light to reach the retina.
However, the vitreous gel also changes with age. In particular, vitreous gel can shrink and pull away from the retina, leading to eventual retinal detachment. One of the warning signs of the condition is the evolving appearance of floaters and flashes alongside blurred vision.
Eye Care Tips for Maintaining Senior Eye Health
It’s no secret that seniors’ eyes are more vulnerable to numerous external factors and lifestyle habits, as sharp vision is key to a healthy and active lifestyle in later years. Here are some practical eye care tips that you or your parents can use to maintain their eye health as follows:
- Adopt a Healthy Diet: Certain foods have been proven to improve vision. You probably think of carrots, but fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C can do the same trick. Additionally, antioxidant-packed foods can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Check for more fabulous foods to boost eye health here.
- Stick to a Regular Eye Exam: This is one of the most efficient ways to stay on top of your or your parent’s eye health. When seniors live independently, even the slightest vision changes can significantly impact their day-to-day tasks. So aside from determining the prognosis of underlying health issues, annual eye exams can help correct vision before problems start to chip away at your or your parent’s quality of life.
- Take Breaks: Remember to take in-between breaks after reading, using a computer, watching TV, or doing near-focused tasks in prolonged periods. Essentially, the 20/20/20 rule can help prevent eye strain after gazing at digital screens. This method involves looking at a distant object for 20 seconds every 20 minutes while standing 20 feet away.
- Wear Eye Protection: Although vitamin D is crucial for vitality and bone health, constant exposure to UV rays without protection can be detrimental to the eyes and heighten the risk of skin cancer. As a result, remember (or remind your parents) to stay ‘shady’ by always carrying a pair of sunglasses inside their pockets. Not only do sunglasses help them block out 90-100% of harmful UV rays, but it is also a smart way to enhance vision under the glaring sun. Moreover, it’s strongly recommended to wear prescription glasses, especially if your parents have presbyopia.
- Install Indoor Lights: Having adequate lighting inside the house benefits seniors in many ways. They find reading, watching TV, or carrying out other close-up tasks easier and more comfortable in a well-lit room. At the same time, it also reduces the risk of falling.
- Stay Active: Exercise brings plenty of advantages to improving general well-being, but did you know that engaging in physical activities also helps with eyesight due to well-circulated blood flow? For seniors with joint issues, jogging, taking a walk, water aerobics, and other low-impact forms of exercise can help them achieve the same outcomes as intense workouts.
Stay on Top of Eye Health at 12 Oaks Communities
Providing eye care for residents is our top priority at 12 Oaks Senior Living communities. Our staff is specially trained to watch for vision changes that may necessitate a regular eye exam.
We stay connected with family members to inform them of any future issues or needs for our residents. A healthy physical state contributes to a contented state of mind and a high quality of life at 12 Oaks Senior Living communities.
If you have questions about senior eye care, connect with us to learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for questions or to schedule a personalized tour.
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