Eye and Vision Challenges in Older Adults

For older adults it can be embarrassing to admit that their eyesight is becoming poorer as they age. Even with increasing or changing prescriptions, regular checkups, and corrective lenses like glasses or contacts, eye care is a sore point for many older adults

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that older adults are prone to vision problems, and about two-thirds of adults with vision problems are 65 or older.

Additionally, various eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration can make losing one’s sight an even more unbearable experience.

Thankfully, if you or someone you know is suffering from any eye-related conditions, including an eye infection, dry, or watery-eyes, there are things you can do to help. Here are a few ideas of ways to help older adults compensate for their aging eyes.

Use brighter lights

Studies have shown that as we age we lose the ability to make out as much detail in faint or dim light. Bright light therapy in older adults can also help ease depressive symptoms. This means that as we become older we need to increase the amount of natural and artificial light in our homes and where we work in order to compensate for this vision loss.

One way to do this is to encourage older adults to replace older, thicker curtains with lighter and more translucent options during the daylight hours. Encourage them to get outdoors in the daytime hours before 10AM and after 2PM, to avoid the hottest times of the day. This will help them not only increase their natural vitamin D levels , but give their eyes a chance to soak in the beauty and detail of the outdoors in bright natural light.

In evening house make sure that older adults have the ability to turn on multiple slights in their home so that they can see where they are going and more easily accomplish their routines. Dim lighting and dark living conditions makes it harder for older adults to see and can also lead to painful or even life-threatening bumps, injuries, and falls.

Speak face to face

The combination of failing eyesight combined with poor hearing can make it difficult for older adults to hold conversations. Make it easier on them by ensuring you speak face to face with them when speaking. This will make it easier for older adults to read facial expressions, watch your hand gestures, and observe other body language that are all non-verbal cues to what’s being discussed.

While phone amplifiers and hearing aids may also help, it’s important to ensure that you have as many in-person conversations as possible. This is especially important for in home caregivers and family members who visit the elderly to help them connect and make deeper bonds of trust and respect as they help around the home.

In order to ensure the best conversations, the CDC recommends being sure to always:

  • Limit background noise
  • Speak clearly with more volume
  • Do not chew gum or eat while speaking
  • Always talk face to face

Printed materials

Visual impairments and other challenges can make it difficult to both see and read printed materials. When combined with slower comprehension and memory declines in many older adults, reading can become a difficult task.

Be sure to reducing text whenever possible and include only the most crucial information. Consider making audio versions of information available, whenever necessary and possible, for those that need extra help.

To make crucial information easier to read, here are some recommendations on how to accommodate the needs of older adults.

  • Ensure high-contrast text to make it stand out. The best possible contrast is black text on a white background.
  • When developing materials like brochures, flyers, forms, and other documents for older adults, using a font size of 16 to 18 is best.
  • It can be difficult for people with vision problems to follow lines of text and work their way from the end of the first line to the beginning of the next. It’s recommended that spacing between lines should be at least 25 percent of the point size in any given document.
  • Avoid using glossy and photo paper finishes on materials for older adults. The glare on the paper can cause problems. Aim for soft matte finishes on printed documents.

With some forward thinking, extra lighting, common sense, and functional design, it’s possible to ensure that the older adults in your life feel safe and understood, despite their vision problems, for many years ahead.