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Prepared by
The American Optometric Association
Committee on Vision Care of the Aging



Special acknowledgment is made to the authors of the textbook on VISION OF THE AGING PATIENT published by The Chilton Company Book Division, Philadelphia and edited by Monroe J. Hirsch, O. D., Ph.D. and Ralph E. Wick, O. D.

All references quoted in the text and much of the material used in the preparation of this report was taken directly from this source.

Ralph E. Wick, O.D.,
Chairman Committee on
Vision Care of the Aging

Donald C. Exford, O.D.,
Harry Kaplan, O.D.,
Irl N. Stalcup, O.D.,
J. Herman Thomas, O.D.,
Trustee Consultant




Not many years ago, a pair of spectacles was symbolic of old age, and old age was a vague period of life that most individuals sought to escape. In doing so, they often refused to admit their vision was becoming defective, that what they read easily before, now became a blurred challenge, that, where in most cases, they now had more time for leisure activities, they could no longer fully enjoy them. But pride said, "Don't submit to old age .... don't give in to father time ... .. don't show everyone you're getting old .... by wearing glasses."

Today, we realize that reduced visual efficiency is nothing to be ashamed of. It occurs in both old and young alike. In the aging person, it is a natural physiological change that takes place. When properly corrected, vision offers the senior citizen the facilities to indulge in all his regular activities with interest, vigor, and visual efficiency.

A greatly increased life span (from 20 or 30 years of age during the Roman Empire, to 40 years of age by 1850, to 50 years of age at the turn of the century, to almost 70 years of age today, and even more tomorrow) has created many problems for the human being. Much the same, it has created new areas of research for the ophthalmic professions. Increased longevity has changed our pattern of life, and our modern environment makes more and more demands on vision that optometry must cope with and conquer.

From a clinical viewpoint in optometry, a demarkation had to be made to indicate where youth ends and aging begins. Through studies, the age of 40 was found to be the place in life where presbyopia (a clinical classification for "old age' vision deficiencies) begins. The actual age depends on the individual, but by the age of 50 to 55, the process has taken place in nearly all persons, and some type of visual correction is necessary.

Since presbyopia appears around the age of 40 .... (long before most companies even consider retiring their employees at least 30 years prior to the end of today's life expectancy), it becomes apparent that vision is no longer a problem of the aged, but rather the aging.

Optometry gives special attention to the vision problems of our senior generation. Recognizing the physiological and psychological changes that accompany normal aging, optometry is concerned with visual acuity, refraction, accommodation, and the visual neuromuscular system. Optical aids and clinical techniques used offer every American a more productive, comfortable, self-sufficient life, even in the late years, through good vision care.

Old age can well be the golden years of human life. The optometric profession can help to make it that, by the proper care of the most vital of senses vision!

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