Older people are increasingly feeling younger than they traditionally have. We hear 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, and so on.
As healthcare and lifestyles improve, life expectancy increases, which essentially skews the population toward the older age group. Additionally, and thankfully, we can now do more to manage and treat problems associated with ageing eyes than ever before.
Across the eye care sector we have better services that we can offer people, and with improving treatment options there comes a responsibility to provide a wider, more holistic form of eye care. When it comes to treatments like cataract surgery for example, pre- and post-cataract assessments are now commonly conducted in the High Street rather than the hospital.
Delivering these services locally can be better for older people, as generally they can access their community optometrist more easily. This can also take some of the strain off hospitals allowing them to deliver the highly skilled and specialist services more effectively. In doing this there may be economic efficiency in the delivery of these life-changing services.
In the future, we may need to transfer more of these services to the optometric workforce. It’s a case of the right skills being developed in the next (and current) generation of optometrists, so we can provide for our patients in a way we never expected to previously. Not only is it a question of efficient resourcing, but we need to embrace a fundamental change in how we view our own capabilities and what our services mean to patients.
"Health is not just the absence of a disease. It's about how patients feel and how able they are to enjoy life as they always have"
Aspiration for youth
Health is not just the absence of a disease. It’s about how patients feel and how able they are to enjoy life as they always have. As optometrists, we can now help older patients enjoy life in a way we couldn’t before, and improving someone’s vision means so much more than perhaps we realise. For patients, it means improving quality of life, for example, carrying on with activities that give them the ability to keep an active social circle of friends and playing golf are just two examples.
Product innovations like multifocal contact lenses mean patients can choose to wear glasses or contact lenses as the situation dictates or simply feel younger by not being seen wearing reading glasses.
Historically presbyopic contact lens wearers have experienced comfort issues due to the stability of the tear film decreasing with age. Innovations like multifocal contact lenses have really examined a patient’s physiological needs to provide better solutions for this increasingly active age group.
Through great technological innovations allowing better vision care, optometrists and lens manufacturers alike, can make sure this aspiration for youth is something patients can maintain well into later life. We are experiencing a broadening of our profession, both in the treatments available and in the form of care we are expected to deliver for our patients. Older people increasingly feel young, something that we want to champion, protect and promote. We aren’t just treating a patient’s health now, we are preserving their quality of life.
Dr Kamlesh Chauhan is Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s professional affairs director, UK. He is also past president of the College of Optometrists.
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