A common consequence of aging is experiencing vision impairment. Many older adults’ eyesight worsens over time, and some even develop conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Given these effects on their vision, many seniors experience a hard time carrying out everyday tasks—including driving. In fact, the Review of Optometry reveals that the characteristics of crash-related vision problems in older drivers include impaired contrast sensitivity, impaired peripheral visual field sensitivity, and reduced motion. As such, they’re more prone to collisions on the road than new drivers, the other high-risk group.
Fortunately, some eyesight issues in older adults can be addressed, so they can continue driving even in their old age. But first, let’s discuss some of the most common vision impairments in older drivers:
Common Vision Impairments in Older Drivers
The JAMA Network Open study on vision impairment reveals that approximately 1% of 50 to 54-year-old adults experience visual acuity impairment. This percentage increases to 20% or more for those aged 85 years and above.
Such impairments range from worsening eyesight to partial or complete blindness. For drivers, we previously mentioned that impaired contrast sensitivity may affect one’s ability to distinguish objects clearly, especially in fog or rain. As such, older drivers may find it hard to see other cars or pedestrians when driving in harsh or dark conditions.
Another issue is the loss of peripheral vision, which can make it more difficult for older drivers to be mindful of their blindspots, cars in the next lane, or pedestrians crossing the road. This eye issue is common in the development of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma—all of which are typical for older people to develop.
What Older Drivers Can Do to Address Vision Impairments
Get the proper eyewear for driving
Older adults should invest in glasses made for driving to prevent accidents caused by issues like impaired visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and peripheral vision. Almost all the top eyewear brands feature products that target contrast issues and glare. These glasses are characterized by contrast-enhancing polarization and anti-reflective treatment to reduce the glare from harsh lights, making drives safer for seniors. Meanwhile, Maui Jim is known for its ophthalmic lenses. These correct vision in a person with visual impairments and even help correct issues like astigmatism. With these, seniors can drive more safely and confidently to avoid accidents.
Like all drivers, seniors can be affected by glare from the sun whilst driving and may need sunglasses during the day. Off-the-shelf sunglasses are not always an option, especially not for someone needing prescription glasses to see properly. However, top eyewear brands such as Oakley allow you to integrate your prescription into a pair of prescription sunglasses, which means even seniors can protect their eyes from the sun but retain good visibility thanks to their lenses. Their Crankshaft range can be polarized to reduce UV damage and come in nine colors. When you add the prescription on top of that, you have complete protection for senior drivers on a sunny day.
Consider getting surgery
In some instances, wearing corrective eyewear isn’t enough to support older adults’ vision when driving. In these cases, it will be more helpful to consult a doctor regarding medical treatments or surgery to enhance their vision. One procedure is cataract surgery. Because cataracts block the eyes’ lenses, wearing glasses won’t solve the vision loss that they cause. Removing cataracts via surgery will be a more effective way for seniors to attain better vision on the road. There’s also premium lens surgery, where the eyes’ natural lenses are replaced with artificial intraocular lenses that improve focus and reduce refractive error. These procedures are more permanent ways to address vision problems in older drivers.
Older adults are more prone to driving accidents due to their vision problems. Luckily, wearing driving glasses and undergoing medical procedures for the eyes enable them to continue driving despite their age and vision.