Too many older people falling due to poor eye sight

According to new research carried out by the College of Optometrists, most people have no idea of the link between poor eyesight and falls in older people. The research, released in the run-up to this year’s Falls Awareness Week, makes for interesting reading.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they had an older friend, parent or relative who had fallen, yet less than a third (32%) knew that poor vision was a major cause of falls.

Up to one in three people aged over 65 will experience a fall each year, often at significant cost to their health and quality of life, as well as the public purse. Falls are estimated to cost the NHS up to a staggering £4.6m a day. Fewer than 3% of people questioned said their parents’ deteriorating eyesight was a cause for concern.

Clinical adviser to the College of Optometrists, Dr Susan Blakeney, says that failing eyesight should not be seen as an inevitable consequence of ageing: “We are concerned that public awareness of the link between poor vision and falls is so low. Suffering a fall can have an extremely debilitating effect on the quality of an older person’s life and the lives of those around them. Being aware of changes in vision is particularly important for those older people at higher risk of falling or who have fallen before.”

The research, carried out by Opinion Matters, also showed that 25% didn’t realise that sight tests for over 60’s are free. We are encouraging carers and people supporting older people to ensure that people who are at risk of falling are receiving regular eye examinations.

Dr Blakeney says there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of vision related falls: “If you have recently had a big change to your spectacle prescription, ask your optometrist whether they can give you a compromise prescription to make it easier for you to get used to it. You should only wear your new spectacles at home until you are used to them.

“If your optometrist has told you that you should wear spectacles for distance (television, walking about etc), you should keep them on when you are walking outside the home as this could make you less likely to fall.

“Some people are more likely to fall if they walk about wearing bifocals or varifocals, even if they are used to them. So, if you take part in regular outdoor activities it may be best to have a pair of distance spectacles to wear when walking about outdoors or when you are in unfamiliar places. If your distance vision is good without your spectacles it may be best to take your bifocals or varifocals off for walking about. Your optometrist will be able to advise you about this.”

If having read this article you have some concerns, or would like to discuss your current eye care situation further, then call Penzer Opticians to make an appointment, or pop into our practice.