The internet isn’t just for kids

As elderly adults become more computer savvy, some vision risks may arise.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Do you remember the excitement of receiving mail from your grandma with a crisp $5 dollar bill stuffed inside? With the recent explosion of computer use in the age 65 and up crowd, I wonder if my children will get to experience that or if they might receive an email with an e-gift card for Amazon instead.

Currently 74.8 percent of households in the United States have internet access and a remarkable 53 percent of persons 65 years old and up make use of the technology. Even social media is changing with seniors comprising 25 percent of all users. As a result, more seniors than ever before will be using their vision to perform tasks like emailing and making online purchases. While this is clearly a benefit, as seniors can do business in the comfort of their own homes and even order groceries online, there are some inherent pitfalls when it comes to their vision. As we know, patients over 40 tend to have greater difficulty with all near tasks and as the years go by, this only gets worse. Also, conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration are much more prevalent in this population making most visual tasks more difficult. Finally, dry eyes are more common as we age and since we blink less when using a computer, this to can lead to discomfort and fatigue.

So, what can we do to make computer use more comfortable for seniors?

  • Make sure the computer font is at an appropriate size
  • See an optometrist for an up to date glasses prescription and to check for eye disease
  • Consider glasses that are specifically made for computer use with protection from glare
  • Use lubricating drops (artificial tears) and take frequent breaks
  • Do not forget to stand up occasionally and stretch your legs

Additionally, more of the 65 and older crowd is starting to use smart phones (14.5 percent!).   While many smart phones and tablet computers have zoom text, I encourage them to make a purchase with their vision in mind. So, for phones, a phablet like the new iphone plus or the galaxy note makes sense and will be less frustrating to use.

So, while my kids may be fruitlessly waiting by the mailbox, they do get to talk to grandma via skype and facetime which is amazing. What a great time to be a senior!

~ David C. Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association

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