Mature man wearing glasses to read the paper

As a senior, you want to spend your free time on activities you enjoy. Spending time with family, traveling, and sightseeing create valuable experiences and allow quality time with those closest to you. But to fully enjoy every moment, you need to ensure that your vision health is in good standing.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends an annual eye exam for seniors (people 61 and up). Diagnosing eye diseases early can prevent symptoms from worsening over time. Seniors can become susceptible to several eye diseases, including cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. If you have already been diagnosed with one of these eye diseases and fail to schedule regular check-ups, your condition could worsen.

Vision Health by the Numbers

  • 14 million Americans over 12: This many Americans reported visual impairment at 20/50 or worse.
  • 50 percent: Only half of Americans at high risk for vision loss have seen an eye doctor in the last year.
  • 45-90 minutes: Expect an eye exam to take between 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
  • $90 premium: Annual premium for America’s most common vision insurance plan, Vision Service Plan (VSP).
  • $50 to more than $250 for exam: Allocate between $50 and $250 for an eye exam if you don’t have vision insurance, depending on the type of doctor, which tests are included, and what services are provided.
  • $10 copay: People who have a plan with VSP pay a $10 copay for an eye exam.
  • $150 for frames, $90 for lenses: These are the national average costs for glasses when you don’t have vision insurance.
  • $25 copay: People who use VSP for vision insurance pay a $25 copay for their glasses, frames, and lenses.

Aside from an annual exam, you should schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist if you experience any changes in your vision or if you have diabetes.

How Technology Transformed Vision Health

Comprehensive eye exams have evolved past the standard office visit. Today, there are more options available to maintain your vision health.

Telemedicine

For the technology-savvy senior, telemedicine is an option for scheduling vision tests. Telemedicine has introduced a way for patients to receive prescriptions without visiting a doctor, through the use of computer and/or smartphone testing. Several companies can assist you with an online vision test.

  • How does an online vision test work? To take an online vision test, patients need access to the Internet, a computer, and, for some companies, a smartphone. You will be required to read charts similar to those used in tests at a doctor’s office. After you submit your answers, you can pay for the test and receive a prescription from a licensed eye doctor.
  • Will I get the same results I would with an office visit? While some ophthalmologists are concerned about whether an online test can detect astigmatism, which causes blurred vision, results have shown online tests are nearly as reliable as in-person office visits to detect it. Another benefit of this type of exam is the convenience of having a test at any time: There’s no dealing with scheduling a visit during office hours. Keep in mind that companies that produce results from online tests are only there to provide prescriptions for glasses or contacts. They may not be able to diagnose eye diseases.
  • What if I have been previously diagnosed with eye disease? The AOA recommends that those with a previously diagnosed eye disease see an ophthalmologist in person to receive the best treatment. However, for patients who have been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, telehealth can be a good way to monitor the condition.

Office Visits

If you choose to forgo an online test in favor of the more traditional approach, here is what you can expect.

You will be asked to share your vision health history prior to any tests. Afterward, the doctor will use reading charts to measure the sharpness of your vision. Other possible tests include those for “depth perception, color vision, eye muscle movements, peripheral or side vision, and the way your pupils respond to light,” according to the AOA. Depending on your results, the doctor may ask for more tests to pinpoint any possible vision problems you are experiencing.

How to Maintain Eye Health

There are several ways you can protect your sight.

  • Eat a proper diet that includes fruits and vegetables and plenty of fish, which contains omega-3 fatty acids and can provide many health benefits.
  • If you’re going to spend the day in the sun, it is important that you wear sunglasses that block UV rays.
  • Try to limit the time spent looking at computer and phone screens. Prolonged activity can cause fatigue and eye strain.
  • Smokers run a greater risk for eye diseases. If possible, limit how often you light up, or quit smoking altogether to preserve your eye health.
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