As you get older staying active becomes more important than ever. If you’re 60 or older, you’ve probably grown up with the idea that the transition from middle age into “senior citizen” status means slowing down. Nonsense, get up and go. Staying active allows you to stay healthy. Staying active however also means being aware of potential changes in your physical and mental health. Visual changes from age 50-60 are so slow over time that recognizing them is sometimes difficult. Some people over 60 experience loss of sight beyond the normal, age-related vision changes. Conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy are among the eye health conditions that can lead to a more rapid change in vision over time. These changes in vision can take many forms and may exist in varying degrees.
It is important to understand that visual acuity alone is not a good predictor of the degree of visual difficulty that a person may have. Someone with relatively good visual acuity (e.g., 20/40) can have difficulty functioning, while someone with worse acuity (e.g., 20/60) might not be experiencing any significant functional problems. This is because other visual factors such as poor depth perception, limited side vision, extreme sensitivity to lights and glare, or reduced color perception can also limit a person’s ability to do everyday tasks.
If you are 60 or older, one of those everyday tasks could be driving a car. Age-related vision changes and eye diseases can compromise driving ability, even before you are aware of symptoms. You may start to notice difficulty judging distances and speed or the headlights of oncoming traffic at night may impair your vision.
Age-related vision changes that commonly affect seniors’ driving are:
- Not being able to see road signs as clearly
- Having difficulty seeing objects up close like the car instrument panel or road maps
- Changes in color perception
- Problems seeing in low light or nighttime conditions
- Difficulty adapting to glare from headlights
- Experiencing a loss of side vision
The following tips may help you stay safe when driving, especially at night:
- Use extra caution at intersections. Many collisions involving older drivers occur at intersections due to a failure to yield, especially when taking a left turn. Look carefully in both directions before proceeding into an intersection and turn your head frequently when driving to compensate for any decreased peripheral vision.
- If you are having trouble seeing at night or your eyes have difficulty recovering from the glare of oncoming headlights, slow down and avoid driving at night or on unfamiliar roads, whenever possible. Consider your frame; glasses with wide temples (side arms) may restrict your side vision.
- Have an annual vision examination. Yearly eye exams can ensure your eyeglass or contact lens prescription is up to date and provides for early detection of any developing eye health problems.
If you have questions about your vision or eye health or, are interested in having your eyes examined, please contact our offices in Stillwater at 405-372-1715 or Pawnee at 918-762-2573. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!