More Older Americans Will Suffer From Low Vision, Here’s How to Make Life Easier and Safer

Did you know that the number of older Americans with low vision is expected to double in the coming years as more people live longer? Low vision is poor vision that can’t be fixed or improved with glasses, contacts, or surgery. People who suffer from low vision have blind spots that can make it difficult or impossible to drive, read or see faces. But the tragedy isn’t that people have lost vision, it’s that most believe nothing can be done to improve their quality of life. At Geneva Eye Clinic, we want patients to know they can retain their independence and stay safe, despite declining vision.

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of low vision. Other common contributors include diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, and inherited retinal diseases. Whatever the cause, vision rehabilitation helps people make the most of the vision they have left so they can live as independently as possible.

The field of vision rehabilitation has advanced significantly over the years, offering more effective technologies and strategies. Today, ophthalmologists can offer solutions that range from a simple, portable video magnifier that can enlarge text and objects to high-tech glasses with cameras that allow people to read text and see faces.

But there are many simple changes people can make on their own to help them live better:

  • Improve contrast. Put dark placemats under white place settings and purchase rugs that are a contrasting color with the floor. Use kitchen towels and cutting boards that contrast with the countertop. Place contrasting colored tape along the edges of rugs, stairsteps, and lamp shades.
  • Improve lighting. Every year, about 3 million older Americans are treated for injuries from falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these falls are caused by low vision. Add lighting to staircases and dark hallways. Remove rugs from hallways to prevent tripping. Task lighting in the kitchen can also make food preparation safer and easier.
  • Reduce clutter and organize. A cluttered house is more difficult to navigate and can contribute to falls and frustration. When each item has a specific place and is identified with a high-contrast label, it’s easier to locate items needed for everyday living.
  • Embrace technology. Books on tape and personal voice-activated assistants, like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, can be enormously helpful for people who can no longer see well enough to read, dial a phone or set a thermostat.

Most importantly, see an ophthalmologist at the early onset of vision loss. Many patients are often referred for vision rehabilitation as a last resort once their disease has advanced to a late stage. Vision rehabilitation is most effective when introduced early in a patient’s visual loss, so they can involve themselves in the process as they learn how to move around in their new world.

If you or someone you know is suffering from low vision symptoms, schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam to determine the full extent of vision loss and the exact location of blind spots. Our doctors work with patients to determine the best techniques and devices to help them get around their individual challenges and live their best lives.