The risk of falling increases as we age, and many falls are linked to failing vision. Regular eye examinations will pick up any problems and help you to maintain your vision.
What happens as you get older
It is normal for our eyes to change as we get older. Normal changes include losing the ability to focus on things that are close-up (presbyopia), finding that it takes longer to adapt to changing lighting conditions and finding that we need more light to see things.
As we get older we are also more likely to develop eye disease. The most common eye diseases in older people are cataract, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Who is more likely to fall?
There are several reasons why people fall over and not all are related to your vision. People who are most at risk of falling include those who:
• are aged over 75
• are women
• who have fallen before
• have Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, Meniere’s disease or dementia
• are taking sedatives, antidepressants or more than four prescription medicines per day.
What you can do to reduce the chance of you falling
• Have good lighting. Energy saving bulbs are fine providing they are positioned correctly.
• Have a good contrast difference between things can make them easier to see, for example, a dark bathroom floor if you have white suite.
• If you are dazzled by the sunshine when you are out, wear sunglasses that absorb the UV light and/or a hat with a brim to shield you from the sunlight.
• People who wear bifocals or varifocals may be more likely to fall, even if they are used to them. If you take part in regular outdoor activities it may be best to also have a pair of distance glasses to wear outdoors and when you are in unfamiliar places, or to take your glasses off if your distance prescription is not very strong. Your optometrist will be able to advise you about this.
Watch your step!
Be aware of your vision in each eye separately. Many conditions appear in one eye first. By regularly checking your vision (with glasses if you need them) by covering each eye in turn, you are more likely to notice changes. If you notice changes in your vision you should seek advice from your optometrist.
Eye tests for the over 60s
Everyone over the age of 60 is entitled to a free NHS sight test.
Poor vision does not have to be an inevitable part of ageing; optometrists are eye health specialists who can help people see as clearly and as well as possible.