Vision is an integral part of our mobility and balance. As we age, changes in vision can affect our ability to move safely and confidently, potentially leading to falls. However, it’s essential to understand that vision changes are a natural part of aging, and with the right strategies, we can remain active and enjoy life to the fullest.

Various Impacts Due to Vision Changes:

  • Reduced Depth Perception: Aging often leads to reduced depth perception, making it challenging to judge distances accurately. This can affect our ability to step up or down from curbs, stairs, or uneven terrain safely.
  • Peripheral Vision: Peripheral vision may diminish over time, making it harder to detect objects or obstacles from the corners of our eyes. This can be problematic when navigating crowded areas or walking in unfamiliar environments.
  • Impaired Night Vision: Many older adults experience a decline in night vision, which can be especially challenging when moving in low-light conditions or after dark. It also intensifies lights shining in our eyes or coming towards us.
  • Eye Conditions: Common age-related eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can impact vision quality, clarity, and contrast sensitivity.

Preventive Care to Help Remain Active Despite Vision Changes:

  • Regular Eye Exams: Schedule regular eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to monitor and address vision changes. Early detection and treatment of eye conditions can help preserve vision.
  • Corrective Lenses: If you require glasses or contact lenses, ensure that your prescription is up to date. Wearing the correct eyewear significantly improves vision and safety. Consider if laser eye surgery is an option for you while you are younger as it becomes less of an option when your eyes have aged.
  • Proper Lighting: Adequate lighting is essential indoors and outdoors. Use bright, even lighting in your home, especially in areas like hallways, staircases, and bathrooms. There are modern options for walkway and under cabinet lighting. Have motion detecting lighting in bathrooms. If needed, carry a small flashlight when walking in dimly lit areas.
  • Contrast: Opt for high-contrast environments and clothing. Contrast helps distinguish objects from their background, making it easier to navigate.
  • Balance and Strength Training: Engage in balance and strength exercises to improve stability and confidence in movement. Physical fitness can help compensate for some vision challenges.
  • Mobility Aids: Consider using mobility aids like canes or walking sticks to provide extra support and improve balance. These aids can enhance confidence while walking.
  • Safe Walking Techniques: Use a heel-to-toe walking pattern, similar to the gait of a tightrope walker, to maintain balance. Take smaller steps when necessary and be cautious when navigating uneven surfaces.
  • Environmental Modifications: Make your living spaces safer by reducing clutter, securing rugs, and installing handrails where needed.
  • Orientation and Mobility Training: Enroll in orientation and mobility training programs that teach techniques for navigating safely with vision changes. Qualified specialists can provide valuable guidance.
  • Stay Socially Engaged: Maintain an active social life to combat isolation and depression, which can result from reduced mobility. Engaging with friends and family provides emotional support and motivation to stay active.

Remember, vision changes often happen as we age, but they don’t have to limit mobility or prevent the enjoyment of life. By staying proactive, seeking professional guidance, and implementing safety measures, you can continue to lead an active and fulfilling lifestyle, despite changes that life hands you.

Please enjoy the next blog in our series: Fall Prevention Week: Staying Active and Engaged: Finding Community Programs for Aging Adults