9 ways to prevent falls when you have low vision

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Here’s a sobering statistic: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 4 adults age 65 or older will fall at least once a year. One in 5 of these wipeouts will result in serious injury or worse: impaired vision more than doubles the risk of a fall.

“Balance is primarily controlled by vision,” says Pamela Beach, professor of motor behavior and co-director of the Movement Studies Institute for the Visually Impaired at SUNY Brockport. “Seventy percent of the sensory receptors in our body are located in our eyes. When you lose your sight, you lose much of this vital information, which increases the likelihood that you will lose your balance. »

Check out these strategies for standing, which are especially useful if your vision is poor.

1. Give your rooms a second life

“On slippery floors, use mats with non-slip padding,” suggests Natalie Baker, president of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nursing Association. Eliminate tripping hazards, such as power cords and clutter. Install handrails along stairs or steps leading to your home, garage, basement or second floor. Place contrasting non-slip tape around the edge of the steps so they stand out and use the contrast to set things apart, such as a dark bath mat with a rubber backing on a light floor (see this resource for more step-by-step ideas). home security).

An occupational therapist or certified aging-in-place (CAPS) specialist can suggest modifications to make your home safer, Baker says. Contact the National Association of Home Builders (800-368-5242) or go to its website, nahb.org, and look under Find a Certified In-Place Aging Specialist. AARP also has a checklist of safety improvements you can make to prevent falls in your home.

2. Light the way

Illuminate walkways inside and outside your home. “Use nightlights or motion-sensing lights to navigate the dark,” says Baker, especially in hallways and the bathroom. Add toe kicks around kitchen islands or cabinets and motion-sensor night lighting to illuminate a path inside or outside your home. Put lights on timers to automatically turn on at dusk. Invest in smart technology, like Alexa or Google Home, to implement voice assistance that lets you use your voice to turn on a light when you enter a dark room. Install overhead lighting to eliminate shadows in rooms and open curtains or blinds during the day to let in natural light.

3. Think about your glasses

Have your vision checked regularly to make sure your prescription is up to date. And while your bifocal and progressive lenses — with different correction zones for near and distance vision — may be suitable for reading, wearing them constantly can increase your risk of falling. A study published in the British medical journal found that single-lens distance glasses were associated with 40% fewer falls outdoors in very active wearers near age 80, compared to multifocal glasses. So it can’t hurt to keep a spare pair of single vision distance glasses handy when you go out.

Also be careful when buying new glasses with a big prescription change; as you adjust to being different, your balance can be disrupted by making objects appear closer or farther away than they are, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Optometry and vision science.

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