Single-lens eyeglasses may cut fall risk for some elderly

By Tom Nordlie • Published: September 8th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, the first corrective eyewear with multiple lenses.

This was a great development, helping people who had trouble seeing clearly at multiple distances.

Unfortunately, many bifocals today have a built-in problem – visual distortion at the boundaries where the lenses meet.

That little flaw can mean big trouble if the user has to look down to ensure safe footing.

Numerous studies have shown that older people who wear multi-lens glasses are at greater risk of falls, compared with those who wear single-lens glasses, or no glasses.

Now, a group of researchers report in the British Medical Journal they’ve found a way to cut that risk. But it only works for active seniors.

The secret? Using old-fashioned, single-lens eyeglasses outdoors.

In the study, scientists recruited about six-hundred older men and women who wore multiple-lens glasses.

The researchers divided them into two groups.

One group was asked to use single-lens glasses when walking or doing outdoor activities.

If needed, participants were given new glasses.

The other group was a control, so everyone wore their usual eyeglasses.

Both groups were tracked for about one year.

During that time, the group with single-lens glasses had eight percent fewer falls.

However, the incidence of falls actually went up for participants in the single-lens group who rarely went outdoors.

So, sedentary people who wear multi-lens glasses might need to stick with their usual specs at all times.

This study could help seniors view their eyewear from a new perspective.

And, by choosing eyewear carefully, they’ll minimize the chances of suffering a fall.

That’s one idea that even Ben Franklin probably couldn’t improve on.