SUN LENS SOLUTIONS FOR SENIORS

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Polarized lenses, like Transitions Drivewear lenses, minimize the effects of the sun’s horizontal glare off shiny or flat surfaces, like other vehicles or roads, and are ideal for older drivers.
Seniors who pursue outdoor activities are ideal candidates for sun lenses. Shown here is Victor Kovalenko, head coach of the Australian Olympic Sailing Team, wearing Maui Jim’s Hamoa Beach sunglasses.
A polarized photochromic might be the ultimate solution for outdoor use because it regulates the amount of light coming through the lens based on ambient conditions and reduces reflected glare.
SUN LENS TINTS
Yellow or orange lenses tend to heighten contrast in overcast, hazy, low light conditions outdoors.

Amber, rose, or red lenses heighten contrast in partly cloudy and sunny conditions, but cause significant color imbalances that some seniors may find unappealing.

Lenses that are dark amber, copper, or brown (including melanin lenses) block high amounts of blue light. This will increase contrast and visual acuity. These lens colors improve contrast on grass and in blue skies. They’re also good for golf or tennis.

Green lenses heighten contrast mildly and preserve color balance, making them a good choice for gardening.

Gray lenses reduce overall brightness while preserving 100% normal color recognition and is a good choice for general sun lenses.

Emphasize the health benefits of sun lenses, like the Autumn Gold Transitions sun lenses, to active seniors.

The myriad properties in quality sun lenses provide the protection today’s senior wearers want.  

When you see advertisements for sunwear, you almost always see stunningly attractive young people wearing them. The implication of course is that sunwear is a sexy, youthful product. While a good portion of the sunwear buyer base is comprised of young people, seniors also wear sunwear and in fact, need sunwear just as much as young people do, and for many of the same reasons, as well as a few unique ones. At the core of any good pair of sunglasses are the lenses. Their optical and physical properties are what interact with light to provide the protection senior wearers want.

SENIOR VISION
As the eye ages, it goes through a number of changes. For example, the cornea becomes less clear, the lens becomes less clear and can yellow, the vitreous becomes less clear, the retina becomes less sensitive, floaters can interfere with light transmission, tear production can diminish making the cornea dry, which can interfere with efficient refraction, etc. Overall, vision becomes dimmer, less sharp, has less contrast, and glare. Add to this the degenerative effects and diseases seniors are susceptible to and you’ll have a good idea why a good pair of sunglass lenses are essential for them.

GLARE
The job of any good sun lens is to filter light with the main intent of reducing the light’s intensity. This is usually done with lenses that are dark in color that absorb light, although reflection is sometimes used. Since seniors are prone to glare due to the effects of aging on their eyes, they are excellent candidates for sun lenses. For seniors, wearing a quality pair of sunglass lenses may relieve the light sensitivity caused by cataracts, aphakia, pseudophakia, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, corneal dystrophy, optic atrophy, aniridia, and glaucoma.

Glare for seniors comes in three varieties: too much brightness, ghost images around bright objects, and glare off their lenses. Too much brightness is solved by using lenses that absorb the bright light. You can use fixed tint lenses for this purpose and photochromic lenses are a good choice as well since they regulate the amount of light coming through the lens based on ambient conditions. Polarized lenses are also an excellent option for seniors because they reduce reflected glare off shiny surfaces like water, or, for example, pavement. A polarized photochromic might be the ultimate solution for outdoor use.

Glare on their lenses and ghost images around bright lights are solved with an anti-reflective (AR) treatment. Consider using a premium quality product that has hydrophobic and oleophobic properties to improve clarity and reduce cleaning. The AR treatment will not only reduce the glare issues but will also improve their contrast, which is a real plus for seniors since they have age-related reduced contrast issues.

EVERYDAY SUN LENSES
For seniors who do not have detectable eye disease and are not complaining about glare or other age-related vision issues, you might recommend UV-absorbing lenses with a moderately dark tint. Gray is the traditionally recommended color and usually works well. Don’t make them too dark since seniors naturally see the world a bit dimmer. Also, since the contrast they see is usually lessened with age, some may appreciate lenses that enhance contrast such as brown lenses. A good AR treatment is also recommended for all eyeglass wearers but can be particularly helpful for seniors.

BLUE LIGHT
Seniors are increasingly using computers, tablets, smartphones, and other handheld devices. These products all use LED (light emitting diode) technology in their screens. The light from an LED screen gives off high-energy violet light (HEV).

HEV helps our bodies become aroused, alert, attentive, and focused when they are in a natural lighting (sunlight) system. This natural lighting system controls our sleep cycles that impact our overall health. Today’s electronics and artificial lighting systems tend to emit more harmful blue light causing sleep cycles to be disrupted. Blue light focuses in front of the retina causing mild distortion of the image and decreased acuity.

UV and HEV are implicated in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) when there is high exposure over a lifetime. AMD is the major cause of vision impairment in the over-50 group in the U.S., and its prevalence is expected to grow as the number of people over 60 increases.

Lens manufacturers and lens coaters have developed two methods for addressing the harmful effects of blue light for both clear and sun lens use: absorption and reflection. Lenses that absorb blue light use a substance inside the lens (usually melanin) that absorbs the harmful portion of blue light but allows the beneficial portion through. Lenses that reflect HEV do so by modifying the AR treatment so that it does just this.

Both techniques do not filter out all HEV light. Manufacturers have different opinions about how much HEV to eliminate and most products fall in the 10% to 30% absorption range so you’ll need to decide which of these is right for your patients. You’ll also need to decide if you want to absorb the HEV or reflect it. The reflection approach also includes the benefits of AR treatment so if you’re focused on getting seniors into AR sun lenses, that might be the way to accomplish the blue light issue too.

DRIVING
Driving is an important element in a senior’s life because it represents freedom of movement. Losing the ability to drive usually has a devastating effect on them. That’s why recommending sunglasses to seniors can be an easy task.

Older drivers should consider wearing non-prescription or prescription sunglasses with polarized lenses. These lenses minimize the effects of the sun’s horizontal glare off shiny or flat surfaces, like other vehicles or roads, and can lessen indoor eyestrain from television screens for people who are light sensitive. Even seniors who wear contact lenses with built-in UV-blocking tints should get in the habit of wearing sunglasses when outdoors to gain additional protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Some lens suppliers offer sun lenses specifically for driving including a polarized photochromic version.

OUTDOOR PURSUITS
Many seniors are active into their 80s and 90s and they enjoy fishing, gardening, golf, tennis, walking, swimming, and much more. Seniors understand the importance of good health care so if you recommend sun lenses by emphasizing the health benefits they provide, your senior patient will be a lot more receptive to getting them.

Seniors are an ideal match for sun lenses due to the condition of their aged eyes and their lifestyles. Be sure to recommend sunwear to all your senior patients.

Randall L. Smith is the Opticianry Program Director at Baker College in Jackson, MI.

Ed De Gennaro is Director, Professional Content of First Vision Media Group.

WHERE TO FIND IT:

Maui Jim, Inc.
888-MAUI JIM • mauijim.com

Transitions Optical, Inc.
800-848-1506 • transitions.com

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