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Senior Eye Care: Is Your Vision Affecting Your Driving?

July 21, 2011

Tips for maintaining healthy vision and a safe driving record for seniors.

As you grow older (and wiser, of course), you may find that you no longer have the abilities and facility that you may have had when you were in your twenties: exercising may feel more like a tiring, painful process than an invigorating activity, you no longer can recall dates and events at the drop of a hat like you used to, and you may even find that your vision isn’t quite what it used to be.

As we age, it is normal for our vision abilities to change, however that doesn’t make it any easier on daily activities and norms that have become a necessary part of life. One of the biggest activities that our eyesight has an effect on as we get older is our driving.

While many people may joke about elderly drivers on the road―”Move over, Grandpa!”―it’s not until you become a senior yourself that you realize just how frustrating it can be to no longer excel at an activity you’ve been participating in for over 40 years. However, if you are aged 60 years or older, while driving may seem a little more wearisome that it used it, it can also be much riskier than your realize.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that over 6,500 Americans who died in automobile accidents in 2005 (15% of all fatalities on the road that year) were aged 65 years or older. They also say that the percentage is expected to climb as the number of older Americans increases in the years ahead.

So what can seniors do to avoid becoming one of those unfortunate statistics? Here are four simple tips for maintaining healthy vision and safe driving well into your senior years:

Have Annual Eye Exams

We recommend that anyone over the age of 60 has annual eye exams every other year. Your ophthalmologist  can help to make sure that your eyes don’t show any serious eye-related issues such as cataracts or macular degeneration. Regular eye exams are also important in making sure that prescriptions are current and accurate as your eyesight begins to change.

Consider Wearing Special Prescription Lenses

A trained eye care professional can help to prescribe glasses that may help you see better while driving at night and can extend your eyesight much longer. For example, lenses with anti-reflective coatings can help to cut down on the glare that comes off of the road. Also, lenses that are developed with wavefront diagnostic technology may be able to help reduce star bursts, halos, glare and other problems caused by distracting eye aberrations.

Be Extra Cautious When Driving At Night

As our eyes grow older, our pupils tend to get smaller which causes them to dilate more slowly in the dark. Combine this with other normal, age-related vision issues and only about 1/3 as much ambient light can reach your retinas when you’re around 60-years-old, compared to when you were younger. The loss of this light transmittance can significantly reduce your ability to see well at night.

Seek The Best Care for Age-Related Disease

While regular eye care is important in your senior years, it is even more important to have annual examinations if you have an age-related eye disease such as cataracts or diabetes. When you have diabetes, it is important to have your eyes examined at least once a year and closely follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your diet, blood sugar, insulin levels and self-care. If you are a candidate for cataract surgery, consider asking your surgeon about replacing your clouded natural lens with an aspheric intraocular lens which may provide sharper vision and better contrast.

Getting older doesn’t automatically mean that you are a danger to the road and that you need to stop driving. However, in order to drive safely, it is important to be aware of any age-related eye problems you may have, and to incorporate safe driving habits into your daily routine. As long as you maintain healthy vision, you may be able to continue driving long into your golden years.


Image source: Jupiter Images

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