The Right Shades: Sunglasses for Seniors
The right sunglasses not help you look sharp, they can also help with some common eye problems we face as we age. Sunglasses can slow the development of wrinkles around your eyes, delay the onset of cataracts, protect against glaucoma-related light sensitivity, and shield you from distracting glare while you drive. Here’s what to look for in your next pair of shades.
Sunglasses for skin protection
“Crow’s feet” wrinkles at the corners of your eyes can result from years of genuine smiles that reached your eyes, but they can also result from sun damage. To protect the skin around your eyes, wear sunglasses that cover the whole eye area from your eyebrows down to your cheekbones No tiny frames, please – think classic Sophia Loren or even Terminator. Whatever style you choose, make sure the lenses filter out 100% of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
Sunglasses to help slow cataract development
Cataracts aren’t entirely preventable. Some people are born with these cloudy lenses, although most cataract sufferers are over age 40, as decades of sun exposure start add up. Protecting your eyes from UV rays may slow cataract development, and that can delay or eliminate the need for cataract removal surgery later on. As with shades for skin protection, you’ll want to consider only sunglasses that offer 100% protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Sunglasses for glaucoma and light sensitivity
There are several types of glaucoma, all of which cause nerve damage and can lead to permanent blindness. Most glaucomas progress slowly, and medication and surgery can help treat but not cure the disease. If you’re living with glaucoma, you’ll want to give your eyes the best possible protection from glare so you can safely get around on your own for as long as possible.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends glasses with anti-reflective lens coatings and an amber tint to reduce glare. Full UVA/UVB protection is a must-have, and you may also want to consider wraparound styles and even mirrored lenses for additional glare protection. The GRF also recommends trying on the sunglasses in front of a mirror. If your eyes are easy to see through the lens, look for a pair with darker lenses to block more light.
Sunglasses for glare protection
Even without the extra light sensitivity of glaucoma, older adults are more sensitive to glare from sunlight and headlights, and that can cause headaches and create driving hazards. The American Automobile Association’s SeniorDriving website recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses during the day (not at night) to guard against glare-related eyestrain that can also affect your driving at night. Wraparound lenses may add extra glare protection, but be sure to choose a style without bulky frames that might obstruct your vision. And yes, look for UVA/UVB complete protection.
Sunglasses that fit your budget
Even the best eye protection is useless if you can’t afford it. The good news is that even inexpensive sunglasses usually offer full UVA/UVB protection. Major drugstore chains, discount stores like Walmart and Target, and even some grocery stores sell sunglasses with full UV protection for less than $20.
Sunglasses with corrective lenses can be much more expensive. Depending on your prescription and the frames you choose, a good pair of vison-correcting, UV-protecting shades can run several hundred dollars. A less expensive alternative is to pick up clip-on or fit-over sunglasses at the drugstore and wear them over your regular prescription glasses. They aren’t quite as stylish as designer frames, but they usually cost $20 or less and they do the important job of protecting your eyes.