Buying Eyeglasses After 50: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind

How to ensure you’re leaving the store with the best pair for your face, lifestyle, and changing vision.

older couple taking a selfie

By the time you hit your 50s (and for sure in your 60s), there’s probably one fashion accessory you’re rarely without: your glasses.  

In fact, 91% of Americans over the age of 55 wear eyeglasses (including readers) to correct their vision, according to the industry group the Vision Council.

Since glasses are so important to so many of us, it only makes sense that we put some time and thought into the selection process. 

Sure, you could keep recycling your trusty frames year after year. Or go with the first pair of frames you see on the display. But is that really how you want to approach this statement-making accessory?

We didn’t think so. 

Here are a few tips to help you pick out a new pair of glasses that look great, show off your personality, and—most important—cover your vision needs. 

Tip #1: Size Matters Most 

It’s likely that your doctor has prescribed lenses that will help you see both far away and close up. And that means bifocal, multifocal, or no-line multifocal progressive lenses.

“When you graduate from single-vision lenses into a bifocal or multifocals, you’ll need a frame that’s a little bit larger,” says John Perez, O.D., an optometrist at the America’s Best in Layton, Utah. “Lens technology has really improved, but your frames will still need to accommodate a lens that’s a bit bigger than one with only one function.” 

Steer away from small frame shapes that don’t cover much more than the actual eye and go for something that’s in the range of medium to large. Even though newer progressive lenses can work in some smaller frames, Dr. Perez says that a larger lens area is still the way to go, as it will give you a more comfortable reading experience.  

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Tip #2: Be Realistic

Facts are facts. And the fact is that as you get older, it gets tougher to see in dim and dark light. Being certain that blues are blue and greens are green is no longer a given. And coming face-to-face with glare—from oncoming headlights, from bright theater marquees, from your e-reader—is your new nemesis.

Everyone is bothered by glare to a degree (think shielding your eyes from the sun on a day when you forgot your sunglasses). But many older adults are dealing with age-related vision problems that can make glare even more problematic, says Dr. Perez. Presbyopia and cataracts are two examples where glare can sometimes distort your vision and make it tough to tell objects apart.

So when the optician brings up your lens options, including recommended coatings and treatment options, pay attention! 

“Anti-reflective coatings are a must,” says Dr. Perez. “They can really help cut down the glare—especially at night.” The America’s Best NeverGlare Advantage anti-reflective coating costs less than $100 for two pairs.

You might also want to consider lenses with a built-in photochromic coating, such as the popular Transitions brand that’s available at America’s Best. These lenses automatically get lighter or darker depending on the available UV light. 

If you have a very high prescription, in addition to a nonglare lens, Dr. Perez suggests going with a high-index plastic lens that’s thinner, lighter, and therefore more comfortable for all-day wear. Bonus: America’s Best Verithin high-index lenses are also scratch resistant.

Tip #3: Downplay Your Age

If you’ve been wearing glasses for years, you already know the general rule of thumb that says to choose a frame shape that contrasts with your face shape—round face goes with square frames, and so on. 

But once you turn the corner past 50, the frames you choose can play some cosmetic tricks in your favor—helping you hide some telltale signs of your true age. For women, curvy cat-eye shapes have an uplifting effect for the face, says Star Jaques, an optician and manager at the Layton America’s Best.  

Men can try rectangular shapes with rounded corners and see similar results. It’s okay if you have your heart set on a different shape—just keep an eye out for rounded corners and soft edges. 

Color plays a role, too. Warm neutrals (shades of brown, gray, green, and blue) flatter most older complexions. Jewel tones (burgundy, deep purple, dark berry) are also good choices. And don’t shy away from some sparkle!  

Can’t decide on a shape or color? Don’t worry, your optician is your go-to expert. “A lot of people want to browse on their own,” says Jaques, “but we’re up on all of the latest styles and have studied what frame features work best for different patients. We’re here to help you make the best choice.” 

Tip #4: Are You More Like Oprah or Meryl? 

Or Brad Pitt or Samuel L. Jackson? Bring a picture when you’re picking out new glasses. 

“Patients might come in and say, ‘I love Oprah’s new glasses,’ or ‘I like the frames I saw on Sofia Vergara,’” says Jaques. “Those kinds of comments really help us direct you to particular frames in our collection. I also love it when people bring in pictures of celebrities wearing glasses. I can’t make you look exactly like a movie star, but I can help you find your own unique style!” 

Jaques will take that information and choose styles to help patients narrow down their choices. “I know my frame boards really well,” she says. “I’ll pick out a bunch and have the patient rate them from one through 10.”  

Tip #5: Have Fun!

You’ve earned the right to wear what makes you feel good, so don’t be afraid to pick out frames you love—whether or not they’re trendy.  

“You’re wearing eyeglasses more than you did before,” says Alicia Pecco, O.D., an optometrist at the America’s Best in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. “And the great thing is that now, you really don’t have to follow any fashion rules.  

“Pick out your own stylish, fun look and go with it,” she continues. “It’s OK to add some color to your selections, and it’s OK to have more than one pair of glasses. It’s a fun way to change your look, and at America’s Best it’s easy to do because our prices are so reasonable. Ultimately, it’s about finding a pair you’re happy to have on your face.”