It is normal for our eyes to change as we get older. Normal changes include losing the ability to focus on things that are close-up (presbyopia), finding that it takes longer to adapt to changing lighting conditions and finding that we need more light to see things.
As you get older you are also more likely to fall. Poor eyesight has been linked to falling.
Who is more likely to fall?
There are several reasons why people fall over and not all are related to poor eyesight. You are most at risk of falling if you:
- are aged over 75
- have fallen before
- have Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, Meniere’s disease or dementia
- are taking sedatives, antidepressants or more than four prescription medicines a day.
What can you do to reduce the chance of falling
- Try to keep your eyes healthy – see our page on maintaining good eyesight.
- Have good lighting. Energy-saving bulbs are fine as long as you position them correctly. We recommend having lamps close to where you need the light (for example, a lamp near the chair where you sit to read).
- Make sure you turn the lights on at home when it is dark, so that you can see where you are going.
- Make sure that your carpets are well fitted and do not have trip hazards, such as creases, in them. If you have a rug that is on a slippery floor, make sure that it does not slip or move when you walk on it.
- Wear suitable footwear when you are walking around, both at home and outside.
- Having a good contrast between things can make them easier to see. Examples would be having a dark toilet seat on a white toilet (and a dark bathroom floor if you have a white toilet, sink and so on) and having dark edges on steps and stairs.
- If you are dazzled by the sunshine when you are out, wear sunglasses that absorb the UV light or a hat with a brim to shield you from the sunlight.
- If your optometrists has told you that you should wear glasses for distance (watching television, walking about and so on) you should keep them on when you are walking outside your home.
- If you wear bifocals and varifocals, you may be more likely to fall, even if you are used to them. If you take part in regular outdoor activities, it may be a good idea to have a pair of distance glasses to wear outdoors or when you are in unfamiliar places, or to take your glasses off if your distance prescription is not very strong. Your optometrist will be able to advise you about this.
Ageing eyes and free eye tests for over 60s
Everyone over the age of 60 is entitled to a free NHS sight test. Most optometrists will provide this service. We recommend that you look for an optometrist who is a member or a fellow of the College of Optometrists (look for the letters MCOptom or FCOptom after their name). You do not need to be registered with a particular practice, so just make an appointment when it is convenient. Most practices are open on Saturdays, and some on Sundays and in the evenings.