Each day, approximately 10,000 Americans turn 65, and one in six adults this age and older has a vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. An estimated 2.9 million Americans have low vision, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to accomplish activities such as reading, writing, shopping, watching television, driving a car or recognizing faces. Low vision can be caused by eye diseases that are more common in older people, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, there are many strategies and resources available to people with low vision that can help them overcome these challenges.
Dr. Kenneth Miselis, M.D. offers the following recommendations for older adults with low vision to help make the most of their remaining sight and keep their independence.
- See an ophthalmologist as soon as possible for a comprehensive eye exam. Those with low vision can improve their quality of life through low vision rehabilitation, which teaches people how to use their remaining sight more effectively and can be arranged through an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions.
- Make things bigger. Sit closer to the television or to the stage at performances. Get large books, phone dials and playing cards. Carry magnifiers for help with menus, prescription bottles and price tags.
- Make things brighter. Make sure areas are well-lit and cover shiny surfaces to reduce glare. Consider increasing color contrasts as well. For instance, drink coffee from a white mug and always use a felt-tipped pen with black ink.
- Use technology. Many of today’s newer technologies have applications that can help with low vision. For example, e-readers allow users to adjust the font size and contrast. Many smartphones and tablets can also be used to magnify print, identify cash bills and provide voice-navigated directions.
- Organize and label. Designate spots for your keys, wallet and frequently used items in your refrigerator. Mark thermostats and dials with high contrast markers from a fabric store; label medications with markers or rubber bands; and safety-pin labels onto similarly colored clothing to tell them apart.
- Participate. Don’t isolate yourself. Keep your social group, volunteer job, or golf game. It might require lighting, large print cards, a magnifier, a ride, or someone to watch your golf ball. Ask for the help you need.
Dr. Kenneth Miselis, M.D., Medical Director and Surgeon for Heritage Eye, Skin & Laser Center, suggests, “If you have low vision, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your activities, but it does mean finding new ways of doing them. If you think you may have low vision, see an ophthalmologist right away. The faster you receive care, the faster you can return to doing the things you enjoy and do them more independently.