INFORMATION FOR - General Public
General vision information for seniors

Eyes and vision, like other parts of the body, change as we age. Many people take their sight for granted, yet 95% of adults will experience some degree of loss of visual ability after age 50.

Some vision changes are easily compensated for. Others are sight threatening. With proper and prompt diagnosis and treatment most eye diseases can be controlled. Macular degeneration, glaucoma, optic nerve atrophy, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts are the leading causes of vision loss.

Not all eye problems are disease related. Many are just the result of the aging process and can be corrected with eyewear and/or changes to home and driving patterns, particularly with regard to lighting. After the age of 50, the glands which produce the eye’s tears often become less functional. This can lead to Dry Eye Syndrome and cause burning, tearing or irritation of the eye, as well as lid infections. Artificial tears are an easy remedy to dry eyes, but consult your optometrist about the lid infection, or if the dryness persists.

Reading glasses are the most common remedy for Presbyopia, which is caused by reduced flexibility of the eye’s lens, resulting in difficulty in focusing on near objects.

Don’t ignore changes to your eyes or vision, particularly if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension. Arrange for a regular comprehensive eye examination with your optometrist. If you are 65 or older the cost of your examination is covered by Alberta Health Insurance Plan once every year.

Driving Tips for Seniors

Aging drivers have usually had many years of experience and also drive at safer speeds than other drivers. Unfortunately, they also are subject to changes in their eyesight, reaction time, cognitive ability and flexibility. The purpose of this “tip sheet” is to make you aware of what changes in your driving habits are required in order for you to maintain your driver’s license and limiting the driving risk to yourself and others.

Eyesight - Since about 90% of the decisions you will make while driving rely on information gathered through your eyes and that the amount of light you need to drive safely nearly doubles every 13 years, the Alberta College of Optometrists recommends a regular eye examination by your family optometrist al least every year. Your optometrist may recommend an updated prescription to give you crisper vision, a special tint or coating to reduce glare and reflection or a change in your eyeglass frames to ones that do not block your side vision

Reaction Time - Your eye’s ability to focus slows with age. While a teenager can focus from near to far in less than 2 seconds, seniors take 4 or more seconds to do the same thing.

Medications - Discuss your medication list and possible side effects with your family physician or pharmacist. If a medication makes you feel sleepy or confused - don’t drive.

Hearing - Gradual reductions in your hearing happen with everyone. The change is usually so gradual that most individuals do not realize the extent of their hearing loss. Safer drivers listen carefully for sirens and horns, keep their radio off or very low, limit conversations with fellow passengers and scan attentively for flashing lights.

Flexibility - Driving takes muscle strength to operate the feet and hand controls of a vehicle as well as flexibility in the neck and back to perform side vision checks when changing lanes. Physiotherapists can assist aging drivers should either of these issues become a detriment to your driving. In addition, extra-wide rear-view and side mirrors will increase your field of vision.

When To Pass On The Keys - A driver’s age by itself is not a good indicator of a driver’s ability. Your driving performance is affected by many factors. The decision to give up driving is a very difficult one and should be thoroughly discussed with your family, optometrist and family physician. Remember that retiring from driving does not mean you are retiring from life. Alternative transportation is readily available. The Alberta Motor Association list the following “signs” that suggest it may be time to give up your keys:
  • Having a series of near misses or minor collisions
  • Having wandering thoughts or being unable to concentrate when driving
  • Not being able to read road signs
  • Getting lost on familiar roads or getting confused with simple directions
  • Having other drivers honk at you frequently
  • Being spoken to about your driving by police, family and friends
Safe Driving Choices - The following are safe driving choices most aging drivers adopt in order to keep themselves and others safe on the road:
  • Not driving at night, dusk or dawn when lighting conditions are bad
  • Not driving in rain, sleet or snow when driving conditions are treacherous
  • Avoiding rush hour traffic
  • Planning travel routes in advance of leaving your home
  • Not driving when you are tired, stressed-out or overly fatigued
  • Knowing that 3 right-hand turns around a block is the same as 1 left-hand turn if you are not comfortable making left-hand turns across traffic at corners without traffic lights
  • Ensuring your vehicle is “road-worthy” (brakes, lights, etc.) and all windows are clear.
  • Increasing the distance you follow other cars at to take into account your reduced reaction time
  • Always wearing your seat belt
  • Taking rest stops every hour or two on longer trips