Best Buys for Better Vision

Age-proof your eyes with these new ways to see clearer.

by Beth Levine
Photograph: Photo: Plamen Petkov

Reading in bed at night has always been my favorite ritual, but lately it’s been getting complicated. First I remove my contact lenses, prescription strength 8.0. (For those who don’t know what that means: If I am not wearing corrective lenses and you see me operating any kind of machinery larger than a toy truck, get out of the way immediately.) Then I put on my bifocals: top half for myopia (trouble seeing distant objects), bottom half for presbyopia (difficulty focusing on near objects). After a while, I find the bottom half doesn’t provide a wide-enough field for easy scanning of book pages. That’s when I take off those glasses, put on my regular glasses (for myopia only) and place my reading glasses (for presbyopia only) over them. It works for a bit, and then the whole thing gets tiring and frustrating, so I take off both pairs and pull the book closer and closer until it touches my nose.

Can we say audiobooks?

What’s Going On
Vision changes as we grow older. After you turn 40, you will gradually become presbyopic: The lenses of your eyes start becoming less elastic and lose their ability to focus on near objects. At this point you begin holding menus as far away as possible. When you reach your sixties, you may hit another vision snag: cataracts, a clouding of the lenses that can make driving more difficult—especially at night.

Reading at arm’s length is fine . . . but if even octopus arms wouldn’t be long enough for you to read the fine print on drug or cosmetic labels or the sometimes poorly lit type on all the new tech gizmos, you may find yourself, as I do, handing everything over to your ­teenager to read: “Tell me what it says and don’t be a wiseass.”

What to do? If wearing two pairs of eyeglasses at once doesn’t ring your chimes, there are other options. Because, let’s face it, eventually your teen is going to move out.

If You Want . . .  Glasses
What’s Out There: Progressive Lenses
Tired of shifting between reading anddistance glasses? Dislike the lines on bifocals and trifocals? For many people, progressive lenses offer an improvement. Instead of providing just two or three lens powers, as bifocals and trifocals do, these graduated lenses are multifocal, which makes it possible for you to see from a range of viewing distances. Your ophthalmologist can prescribe progressive lenses depending on your needs—wider intermediate zones if you do a lot of computer work, or more power for near vision if you read a lot, and so on. And if you considered progressives but thought they were ugly, it’s time to reconsider. “Frames used to be large and somewhat unattractive so they could fit in all powers of lenses. But in the past few years, manufacturers have figured out how to create compact designs that provide larger distance zones in smaller frames,” says Harpreet Gill, MD, senior staff physician in the ophthalmology department at Henry Ford Health System. What’s still unattractive: the big bite that customized progressives may take out of your wallet. (More generic lenses may cost roughly the same as trifocals and bifocals.) Only you can decide if the improvement is worth the price.

What’s New: Superfocus
These glasses allow you to quickly switch between focusing on near things and looking at far things. So do progressives; the difference is, with progressives you adjust for distance by switching your eyes around to various spots in the lens, but with Superfocus, it’s the lens that moves. There are actually two lenses: the outer one is removable; the inner one contains a rigid layer behind a flexible membrane, with clear optical fluid in between. You alter the focus, a little or a lot, by sliding a bar on the bridge of the glasses. This pushes the liquid, and that changes the shape of the flexible lens. Superfocus glasses cost about $900 and are odd looking enough that you may not want to wear them on a job interview. But when you’re at home or work, they save you the hassle of switching your glasses all the time (assuming you can find them when you want to). For a list of participating Superfocus vendors, go to

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