Bifocal wearers, watch out for falls!

According to a recent article, many falls could be averted if elderly individuals didn’t wear their bifocals outdoors.

Aging brings its share of changes, including a loss of visual acuity. In many people, the problem is compounded because they have trouble seeing both at a distance and up close. These people can opt for two pairs of eyeglasses – one for distance vision and one for reading and other close work – or they can choose bifocal lenses, which make it possible to combine near and distance vision.

While convenient, these lenses can impair the wearer’s balance, which can lead to a risk of falls when performing certain activities such as going down stairs or walking outdoors. And falls are a risk not to be dismissed as we age – the injuries they cause can threaten our autonomy, mobility and overall health. In elderly individuals, injuries suffered during a fall can hasten their placement in a home or even their death. Even when a fall doesn’t cause any injury, it can make the person fearful and lead to a loss of confidence and isolation.

According to a recent article, many falls could be averted if elderly individuals didn’t wear their bifocals outdoors. Australian researchers studied more than 600 elderly bifocal wearers who wore their eyeglasses outside at least three times a week. Half the participants were given single-vision lenses to wear when going out, while the other group continued to wear their eyeglasses at all times. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted that the participants who wore single-vision lenses outside had 8 percent fewer falls than the other group, and the proportion jumped to 40 percent in participants who went out regularly.

The researchers therefore recommend that elderly individuals who go out regularly should use two separate pairs – one for distance vision alone, and the other bifocal. For people who remain mainly indoors, one pair should be sufficient. When it comes to eyeglasses, needs vary from one person to another. Don’t hesitate to discuss the matter with your eyecare professionals.

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