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Think you’re too old to try contact lenses? Or that you need to give them up for bifocal glasses? Here’s what older adults need to know.
Many people believe they’re too old to try contact lenses or that they’ll outgrow them at some point. But both those things are far from the truth.
In fact, many people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s have options to wear contacts. It’s not uncommon for people at any age to give contact lenses the old college try (and find success).
“I recently fitted a 78-year-old patient with contact lenses for the first time, and he’s very happy with them,” says Lyndon Wong, O.D. Dr. Wong is an optometrist with North Carolina Primary Vision Care Associates, inside America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Mooresville, North Carolina. “There’s no age limit: You can wear contact lenses as long as they’re working for you.”
While that’s surely good news for both long-time and would-be lens wearers, there are a few other myths we’d like to dispel. Here, Dr. Wong shares the truths and insights that Generation Xers and Baby Boomers might want to know.
Did you know that contact lens prescriptions need to be renewed every year? Now’s the time to book your eye exam!
Myth: Once your close vision worsens, you’ll need to switch to glasses.
Truth: There are contact lenses that can correct both near and far vision.
“There are numerous options for correcting both near and far vision that don’t involve the use of bifocal glasses,” says Dr. Wong.
- You can wear one contact lens for distance and one for close up (reading). This is known as monovision.
- You can try bifocal or multifocal contact lenses, which have two or more different powers in one lens. This allows you to see clearly across the room and to read a menu up close.
The best way to figure out the right option for you is to talk to your eye doctor about your everyday life. What do you do most of the time? When do you need to be able to see close versus far? How far away is “close” for you — do you put your nose in a book or stare at a computer screen?
The more you share, the more creative options your eye doctor can suggest for you.
Recommended reading: America’s Best Guide to Contact Lenses
Myth: People with dry eye won’t be comfortable with contact lenses.
Truth: Certain types of lenses and lens care can help with dry eye.
According to Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization, 9 out of 10 people can easily wear contact lenses if they want to. The other 10% may have a condition or lifestyle factor that make contact lenses less of an option, such as repeated eye infections, severe allergic reactions, or exposure to large amounts of dust or smoke.
Sometimes not having enough tears (lubrication) can also make it less comfy to wear contact lenses. But you still shouldn’t rule them out.
If you’ve been diagnosed with dry eye — or you just have eyes that tend to be drier — there are treatment options available that may allow you to wear contacts, says Dr. Wong:
- Try one of the new medical treatments (such as prescription eye drops) available for dry eye.
- Try a different brand of contact lenses. The design and materials used can make a big difference. Even switching to a more frequent replacement such as a daily contact lens may be beneficial.
- Switch to a different contact lens solution.
Sometimes Dr. Wong has patients try a hydrogen peroxide cleaning system called Clear Care. This is trickier to use because you can’t get it in your eyes; you need a separate soaking solution and a special case, both of which are part of the package. The disinfecting process takes six hours.
“In my experience, patients report that it keeps the lenses more moist,” he says. “So if you can follow the system, it may be worth it.”
Myth: First Time’s a Charm
Truth: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again
Of course, the best-case scenario would be for you to get fitted for a pair of contact lenses and love them right away. But that’s not always the case, says Dr. Wong.
“I would say that 75% of the time we get it correct on the first attempt. But it can take two or three attempts to find the best fit,” he says. “At the most, I’d try maybe two or three different types of contact lenses.”
There’s an issue of comfort and an issue of vision, adds Dr. Wong.
“Not all contact lenses are the same. It’s like with sneakers: A size 9 in one brand won’t feel the same as a size 9 in another brand. Or even like a size 9 in another model in that brand!” he explains. “So we start with one option and we go from there.”
If you just aren’t happy with the results at a certain point, it may be that it’s too much of a compromise.
“You have to understand that contact lenses are not going to be perfect,” he says. “So if you want perfect, they may not be right for you.”
To learn about the wide array of near- and far-correcting eyeglasses — including bifocal, multifocal, and progressive lenses — see How to Decide if Your Next Eyeglasses Should Be Multifocal.