By June Fletcher
Aging eyes need special care. But according to Craig Chasnov, a Fort Myers, Fla., optician who talked with AgingCare.com, the eye care and glasses many older people receive leave much to be desired.
The problems begin because the elderly sometimes don't get thorough examinations from their eye doctors, even if these doctors are highly ranked. "The prescriptions I see often are not as accurate as they should be," says Mr. Chasnov, who fits and sells glasses and contacts.
Mr. Chasnov recommends that patients go to optometrists to get eye exams and prescriptions, because they do this work routinely. An ophthalmologist can also do these exams, but is more likely to specialize in surgery and other eye issues, such as disease, trauma or infection.
Seniors often don't complain when they can't see well out of their new glasses. "A lot will just suffer," he says. But that's not necessary. To avoid the problem, ask your optician to build a sample or trial pair of glasses to test out the prescription before committing to a final pair, which could cost around $1,000 if you choose high-quality designer frames and lenses.
Mr. Chasnov recommends lightweight, flexible, durable frames made out of materials like titanium instead of thick, heavy plastic. Frames should fit snugly, but not too tightly. The bridge should feel comfortable and should not slip. If you are getting sunglasses, make sure that the lenses are polarized and the frames are a wrap-around style that will protect your eyes from all sides from the damaging rays of the sun.
And if you haven't bought glasses in a few years, Mr. Chasnov advises asking about new technology that enhances vision.
Among the innovations are digitally surfaced lenses. In a digital lens, the rate of curve changes from the center of the lens outward to optimize vision wherever you look. In a conventional lens, the rate of curve stays the same throughout the lens, which means that you can see sharply only in the center.
Another breakthrough is targeted to people with presbyopia, the gradual, age-related hardening of the eyes' lenses. While many people turn to bifocals when this happens, an alternative is Superfocus. These eyeglasses have two sets of lenses, one flexible and one firm, sandwiching clear optical fluid. The wearer can slide a bar located in the bridge to adjust the focus to the task at hand. The downside: The frames are round, giving you a "Harry Potter look," Mr. Chasnov says.
Mr. Chasnov also notes that lenses that automatically darken when a wearer goes outside have been much improved in recent years. Older versions of these lenses could darken in artificial light, but newer ones only react to ultraviolet light, such as in sunlight. However, these photochromic lenses may take a minute or two to go from light to dark, or the reverse, and may not darken in a car with tinted glass that blocks ultraviolet light.