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How important are eye tests for the elderly?

Eye tests for the elderly are incredibly important.

Here we'll tell you more about why they're so crucial, and what you can do to support your loved one in maintaining their ocular health.

What makes eye tests so important?

Vision is a critical sense. A loss of vision can increase the risk of accidents for older people, and prevent them from engaging with the world around them in the same way.

An eye test can assess how well your loved one is able to see. If their vision is impaired, they can be registered as partially sighted or blind and given access to resources that might make their life easier, such as practical living aids or Blue Badge parking.

But, an eye test does much more than just check vision. These tests also monitor eye health, and check for degenerative conditions so that treatment can be provided effectively.

People aged 60+ are at a greater risk of various eye-related conditions, such cataracts and glaucoma (both more prevalent among women) or age-related macular degeneration. By intervening early, these conditions can be treated before vision deteriorates further.

Eye tests for the elderly: the basics

Age UK recommends that people aged 60+ should have an eye test every two years, when recommended to by an optician, or when a change in vision is noticed.

People of this age also qualify for a free NHS-funded eye test every two years.

Eye tests include a range of different facets, such as:

  • Non-contact tonometer: a machine used to test for glaucoma
  • Autorefractor test: a test to assess ability to focus
  • Retinoscope: a means of finding the appropriate lenses
  • Ophthalmoscope: a check for diseases in the retina
  • Oxo box: a test that assesses how eyes work in tandem
  • Slit lamp: a test for scratches or abrasions
  • Visual field test: a means of checking peripheral vision
  • Health and lifestyle questions: an assessment of the impact of lifestyle on ocular health

Eye tests generally take 20–30 minutes and can be conducted at most local opticians.

Helping support your loved one's ocular health

There are plenty of steps you can take to help support your loved one's ocular health:

  • Check that they're getting tested at the recommended intervals, and that any treatment advice is being followed.
  • Look for changes in their eyes, or in their actions, that may indicate that their vision is deteriorating.
  • Make sure they're staying active; exercise promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to the eyes.
  • Find out whether their sleeping pattern is regular; sleep rejuvenates eyes while a lack of exposure to daylight can interrupt sleep-wake cycles.
  • Monitor conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which can impact on ocular health.

If your loved one is beginning to lose their vision, you may also want to help them gain access to equipment that can help make their daily lives easier. This includes brighter lighting and books/phones with enlarged text.

Helping your loved one maintain their ocular health or live with visual impairment requires dedication, but the rewards can be massive.

The Good Care Group helps older people maintain their functions for as long as possible, and uses specialist care techniques to support people with visual impairments. Contact our friendly team to find out more.